Eating Ghosts: The Underlying Mechanisms of Mood Repair via Interactive and Noninteractive Media


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Abstract

Mood repair is a well-established function of media usage implying distraction from negative mood and the modification of unpleasant arousal states. Recent studies have found interactive media, in particular computer games, to be more effective in repairing mood than noninteractive media. It has been suggested that this is due to the higher task demand of interactive media distracting the players from negative feelings. Yet interactive media have also been found to increase arousal, which can also be seen as a cause for successful mood repair. It remains an open question which mechanism or to which degree both mechanisms—distraction and arousal regulation—account for mood repair via interactive media. The current study was designed to examine this so far unanswered question. We analyzed how effectively negative moods were regulated after a computer game, after a gameplay video, and without media consumption (control group). Mood repair, physiological arousal (positive change in electrodermal activity), and subjective arousal were assessed. Results confirmed that computer games led to a higher degree of mood repair and that this repair was a function of task demand as well as arousal characteristics. Results are discussed in terms of arousal regulation and intervention potential in interactive media.

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