A Randomized Controlled Study of the Effects of PopCap Games on Mood and Stress Carmen V. Russoniello, Ph.D, LRT, LPC, BCIAC, Jennifer M. Parks, CTRS Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic East Carolina University The study was underwritten by PopCap games
Previous studies have primarily focused on the negative aspects of video games.
Studies that have focused on the positive effects include a means to develop social relationships, and to facilitate education, development skills, and multi tasking.
There are a few studies that focus on the health effects of video game play including effects on obesity and cancer treatment.
No previous studies have focused primarily on the mood and stress effects of playing casual video games using both psychological and physiological measures.
Results from surveys indicated that people played PopCap video games because the games reduced their stress and improved their mood. Therapies such as board games, card games, biofeedback, meditation and massage have been useful in helping people change brain and autonomic nervous system activity from areas associated with depression and stress to areas associated with relaxation and alertness.
The purpose of the study therefore was to determine whether PopCap games did indeed improve mood and/or decrease stress in players using psychological and physiological measures.
The Profile of Mood States or POMS is a factor analytically derived inventory that measures six subscales: tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatigue, and confusion. In addition it calculates a “Total Mood Disturbance”. Internal consistency for the POMS has been reported at .90 or above. Test re-test reliability is reported between .68 and .74 for all factors.
It is has been shown that left hemisphere frontal alpha brain waves can be correlated with mood and associated behaviors.
Increases in alpha power in the left hemisphere is associated with negative affect, depression and avoidance/withdrawal behaviors. Conversely, decreases in left alpha power improves mood and decreases avoidance/withdrawal behaviors.
Decreases in right hemisphere alpha power has been also been associated with negative mood. Conversely increases in right alpha power improves mood and increases Approach/Engage behaviors
The ratio between right and left brain alpha has been used to measure emotional stability/mental relaxation (Davidson,1988 and Marshall & Fox, 2000 ).
Heart rate variability (HRV) provides an accurate assessment of autonomic nervous system stress based upon variability in the inter-beat interval of heart beats ( Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology, 1996) . A robust HRV is associated with balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). HRV was recorded during the entire session using a small ear clip sensor. HRV changes indicated by decreases in very low frequency (sympathetic) norms and high frequency (para-sympathetic) norms were used as specific indicators of stress . HRV Device and Ear Clip Sensor Physiological Measurement of Stress
The spheres on the following slides list the mean difference and standard error after comparing 5 minutes of baseline with control or game changes. Differences between individual games and the control group are also presented with related confidence intervals. The level of confidence was set at p. <.1 due to the similarity of the control group activity to the game groups and the exploratory nature of the study .
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Carmen V. Russoniello, Ph.D., Director Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic East Carolina University Belk Building Suite 2501 Greenville, NC 27858 [email_address] 252-328-0024 www.ecu.edu/biofeedback