University of Hamburg, 5-6 July 2013
Benny Liebold, Chemnitz University of Technology
States of Mind Are Not Merely Cognitive Phenomena: The Link Between Emotion and Focused Attention Allocation During Gameplay
In order to explain the experience of playing digital games, researchers suggested several concepts of states of mind, such as flow, presence and immersion. Despite the fact that these concepts show a distinct amount of overlap, they are all based on the premise that the player continuously focuses her attention at certain elements of the gameplay situation—I will therefore refer to these phenomena as states of focused attention.
Typically, these states of focused attention are conceptualized on a continuum between high-order and automated cognitive processes. Some approaches mention an additional emotional component which is characterized as a state induced by intense emotional reactions towards gameplay situations. However, we know from psychological research that cognition and emotion are not autonomous and separated components of our cognitive system—they are highly intertwined. The root of this problem is, at least to some extent, the typical definition of the term emotion: Emotions are not only the intense and conscious feelings associated with certain events—instead emotional processing (i.e. emotionally moderated and mediated cognition) is a fundamental element of our cognitive system.
In this talk I argue that emotional processing is at the core of states of focused attention and can be regarded as a mechanism for continued attention allocation to digital games. This perspective on emotions is to some extent supported by neuroscientific research on the interaction between emotionally relevant nuclei and sensory cortices. For example, amygdala activity is believed to feed back into sensory cortices, thereby selecting emotionally relevant stimuli for deeper processing. This approach sheds new light on the relevance of related work linking structural elements of gameplay settings to the player’s emotional reactions: If we identify elements eliciting emotional reactions, we will at least partially be able to explain why players are focusing their attention on digital games.
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Benny Liebold is Junior Lecturer at the Institute for Media Research, Chair of Media Psychology, Chemnitz University of Technology and Research Associate at the graduate program Crossworlds – Connecting Virtual and Real Social Worlds of the German Science Foundation, Chemnitz University of Technology. He is currently working on his dissertation thesis Adaptive Facial Expression of Emotion in Virtual Agents and Their Effects on User Evaluation. His research interests include emotions and media, virtual agents, media psychology (experience and behavior in context of media usage) and computer game studies.