Category: Addictive Behaviors
Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) was included in the DSM-5 as a condition which warranted future study. Data suggest that a meaningful number of individuals across cultures and age ranges meet criteria for IGD. However, few theoretical approaches have been used to characterize IGD, and no behavioral measure of pathological video gaming exists. Behavioral economics is one theoretical approach that may inform understanding of both the development of, and ultimately interventions for, IGD. Behavioral economics combines economic theory with behavior analytic principles to help explain decision-making and choice behavior. The Multiple-Choice Procedure (MCP), first developed for efficiently investigating drug reinforcement, is a tool for assessing relationships specified by behavioral economic theory. The current study aimed to assess the validity of using an MCP for quantifying the relative reinforcing value of playing video games. Participants (N = 440) completed a measure of pathological video gaming and an online version of the MCP to measure the relative reinforcing value of hypothetical video game playing for different temporal magnitudes (i.e., 10, 30, and 90 minutes to play a video game) relative to alternative monetary reinforcers available immediately or after a 1-week delay. To test the MCP’s sensitivity to reinforcer magnitude and delay, a 2x3 repeated measures factorial ANOVA using MCP crossover points as the dependent variable was conducted. There was a statistically significant main effect of reinforcer delay (p < .001), such that average crossover points increased when the monetary reinforcer was delayed 1 week. There was also a significant main effect of reinforcer magnitude (p < .001), such that average crossover points increased as the time to play video games increased. Bivariate correlations between the crossover points of each MCP version, average MCP crossover point, pathological video gaming scores, and average weekly participant video game play time were significantly correlated with each other (ps < .01). Consistent with behavioral economic theory, the current study demonstrated construct validity in that the reinforcing value of video game playing, as assessed by the MCP, is sensitive to reinforcer magnitude and delay. Additional analyses revealed evidence of criterion validity by showing the relation between several variables meant to assess aspects of video game playing behavior in the natural environment with the MCP. Based on these analyses, the MCP appears to be a valid measure of the relative reinforcing value of playing video games. Future research should evaluate the MCP in a laboratory experiment to ensure generalizability of these results to real choices.
Drew Bassett– Graduate Student, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
Jessica Irons– James Madison University
Nicole Schultz– Graduate Student, Auburn University, 226 Thach Hall, Alabama
Christopher Correia– Professor of Psychology, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama