Understanding the impact of in-game choices on the experience of appreciation and real-life prosocial behavior

Iten, Glena H.. Understanding the impact of in-game choices on the experience of appreciation and real-life prosocial behavior. 2018, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Psychology.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_12697

Downloads: Statistics Overview


An essential part of our daily life is the engagement with media such as games and their narratives. It stands to reason that many scholars therefore have become interested in the potential psychological effects that these interactive media have on their players. More recently, a growing body of research has dealt with the question whether and why games affect their players beyond entertaining them, such as positively impacting knowledge, attitude towards out-groups or prosocial behavior. More and more games, potentially effective in these serious matters, offer active participation with the represented prosocial message through interactivity. An arguably simple but promising way to make games interactive is the provision of choices, which has recently been shown to evoke appreciation (i.e., state of experiencing media, wherein its contents are deeply processed on a cognitive, emotional and perceptual level), potentially leading to a positive impact on real-life prosocial behavior.
Games, however, have not always been found to promote prosocial behavior, indicating inconsistent findings and hence unresolved variables that complicate a deeper understanding of the effects. Because games can widely vary in their interactivity and narrative, they can vary in how they affect players. This may be a reason why studies did not always find empirical support that games positively affect prosocial behavior. The focus of this dissertation is therefore on one specific form of interactivity: in-game choices being made voluntarily. These choices were manipulated in different ways in four experimental studies.
The first study (Manuscript 1) aimed to replicate the previous positive findings with a simple interactive narrative-rich game version, but also went deeper into exploring the psychological mechanisms behind the effect of choices on real-life prosocial behavior. Being able to choose, however, had neither an effect on appreciation nor on prosocial behavior.
Hence, the study described in Manuscript 2 more closely investigated the experience of when choices are perceived as meaningful in narrative-rich games and whether this perception could lead to higher appreciation. This experiment revealed that choices are associated with meaningfulness when they are consequential, social and moral. These choice characteristics, implemented in a simple interactive narrative-rich game, were successful in evoking appreciation, especially if the narrative-rich game allowed to make a voluntary choice.
While empirical studies could support that assigned prosocial game content (e.g., helping) can positively transfer to real-life prosocial behavior, less is known about this transfer to real life, if prosocial choices are made voluntarily in the context of video games having both violent and prosocial content. As many popular games contain a mix of prosocial and violent content, this is important to investigate. Furthermore, it is yet unclear how a reward for prosocial in-game behavior would change the transfer effects of games on real-life prosocial behavior. The goal of the studies in `Manuscript 3', is therefore to investigate in more detail under what conditions an in-game voluntary prosocial choice could transfer to real-life prosocial behavior. The provision of reward indeed played a crucial role for this transfer effect, but also affected how players reasoned their in-game behavior.
In conclusion, the effect of in-game choices and their consequences on real-life prosocial behavior may also depend on how players perceive themselves immediately after the game choice, or on how they process game content in a more meaningful way. The findings showcased in this dissertation, though looking mostly at only a single choice, are furthering the understanding of psychological conditions under which real-life prosocial behavior can be affected through interactive in-game choices.
Advisors:Opwis, Klaus and Zahn, Carmen
Faculties and Departments:07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Society & Choice > Allgemeine Psychologie und Methodologie (Opwis)
UniBasel Contributors:Iten, Glena
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:12697
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:66 Seiten (1 Online-Ressource)
Identification Number:
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:04 Sep 2018 11:37
Deposited On:03 Sep 2018 09:42

Repository Staff Only: item control page