Internet addiction through German first-person-shooter players’ personality (Montag et al., 2011)

I don’t recall why I decided to review this study. It’s an older article, but it checks out in terms of interestingness. Maybe I needed an addiction article to review just so I can keep up. I don’t remember…

Christian Montag (University of Bonn) and five colleagues have published an article in the Journal of Media Psychology.


The present study investigated the influence on Internet addiction of numerous variables ranging from personality to psychological and physical well-being, in a large and highly ecologically valid sample of mainly male adolescent online computer gamers (first-person-shooter video gamers) in Germany. Low Self-Directedness could be linked to a high Internet Addiction Test score in the present study, and the data yielded a continuum model indicating that low Self-Directedness is highly correlated with Internet Addiction Score, not only in students but also in first-person-shooter video gamers.

I am writing up something, preferably a poster, for the 2013 International Communication Association conference. I’ve got some head scratching experimental results, but I’m still collecting data.

The authors reported numerous internet addiction studies and what these studies have found that are risk factors of internet addiction, such as personality, self-esteem, social isolation among others. By reporting these studies’ findings, they included these risk factors into their survey. One particular risk factor, self-directedness, was not previously assessed and the authors argued that self-directedness would account for a good portion of the explained variance in internet addiction.

What is self-directedness? The article itself did not explain enough and I read the referred citation (Cloninger, 1993). Funnily enough, self-directedness is conceptually similar to Baumeister’s self-control and perhaps to Deci and Ryan’s self-determination just because Cloninger referred self-directedness to self-determination. Cloninger elaborated as an intentional force to affirm or commit to particular goals or purposes. Cloninger described the high self-directed individual has possessing high self-esteem, mature, effective, well-organized, self-accepting of own faults, delays gratification and showing initiative to challenges. In contrast, the low self-directed individual seem to lack maturity, blame others for own failures, low self-esteem, uncertain about life goals or self-identity, reactive (or defensiveness IMO), dependent, and resourceless who often wished to be the best at everything and denying his own faults (sounds like narcissism).

Cloninger recognized that many of the descriptions are related to locus of control, self-efficacy, mature self-directed behaviours. Cloninger summarized that self-directedness is a developmental process consisting of five aspects: (1) acceptance of responsibility for one’s own choice vs. blaming others, (2) having personally valued goals and purposes vs. having directionless life, (3) resourcefulness vs. apathy, (4) self-acceptance vs. self-striving, (5) congruent second nature vs. personal distrust.

Sidenote: I’d be interested to know what life goals or life purposes most FPS gamers are looking forward to. I heard stories about girlfriends or young newlyweds complaining about their men’s lack of ambition who squander their life in front of their consoles (see Coyne et al., 2012). Another variant is recent college graduates trying to extend their college life which includes living with other like-minded men, a copious amount of alcohol, videogaming, immaturity and an unenjoyable job or wanting a high-paying they felt entitled to. I could say that they are reluctant to become full-grown responsible adults.

The authors explained why they examined internet addiction rather than videogame addiction among a population of first-person shooter gamers. Social isolation is one of the risk factors and they argued that such social isolation would drive to seek social interaction and the easiest route is through the internet. First-person shooters merely represent a channel for such social interaction as players can communicate through text- or voice-chat. The authors had a good point that first-person shooters are generally played on the internet with others, so it is reasonable to say that online gaming is a subset of general internet activity/addiction and that the former is a specialized (or should I call it localized) internet activity. Therefore, the authors reasoned that motivations to play online would also affect general internet activity/addiction.

Sidenote: I’m interested to know whether internet trolls consistently troll across all or many internet activities, such as youtube, blogs, gaming, forums, news, and social networks among others. Perhaps they found their place on the internet because their dissatisfaction with real life, albeit a maladaptive one I suppose.


Participants: 610 German respondents complete the study’s online survey. The vast majority are male and the average age is 19.32 (SD = 4.40). High school students composed 33% of the sample, followed by high school graduates at 27.5%, 7.2% qualifying degrees for a technical university, 17% holding university entrance diplomas, and 4.8% holding an apprentice diploma. 82.2% reported first-person shooters as their favourite genres (65.2%: Counter-Strike; 13.8%: Call of Duty 4; 1.6% Left 4 Dead), the remaining consisted of MMORPGs, RTS and sports. The average amount of playtime is 20.29 hours per week. There are more demographic details, but I’ll stop here.

The respondents were recruited from the Electronic Sports League’s website who helped advertise their study by giving out raffles. It was noted in the article that one of the authors is affiliated with the website. Well, I am glad that German players were kind to help out researchers in their quest for truth. A bit of kindness and understanding would go a long way, don’t you think American players?


Respondents complete a whole bunch of questionnaires that it took, on average, 45 minutes to complete. Such lengthy survey led to a dropout rate of 49.25%. Not sure how well it performed compared to other online surveys, but given that the survey lasted on a five day period, that’s pretty good.

Personality: The NEO Five Factor inventory German-language version. Don’t know how many items and what point scale. Assesses for extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience.

Self-directedness: The Self-directedness subscale from the Temperament and Character Inventory. The cooperativeness subscale was also used.

Internet addiction: The Internet Addiction Test by Kimberly Young.

Media consumption: respondents responded about the videogames they played. The number of hours watching television, action or horror movies.

Anger: the anger scale of the Affective Neuroscience Personality Questionnaire.

Psychological well-being: Series of one-item questions were taken from the German Sociodemographic Economic Panel. Items include sports activity, smoking, drinking alcohol, physical well-being, mood (e.g. depressive) among others. One interesting item is “how often one had achieved less than they had initially wanted to achieve in the past 4 weeks due to physical/emotional problems.”


The distribution of scores on the Internet Addiction Test showed that 60.5% of the sample is having no or little problems. 37.9% reported to have some occasional problems because of the internet and 1.6% have severe problems.

The authors conducted a series of ANOVAs looking at the various relationships between some of the independent variables and the IAT to which I would not bother describing.

The main analysis is a stepwise hierarchical regression. A series of independent variables entered the regression analysis in blocks. Block 1 entered the psychological well-being questions. Second block entered the media consumption variables. Block 3 entered the personality variables and finally Block 4 entered the self-directedness variable.

The authors were looking at how much of the explained variances change according the variables entered into the equation. Some notable explained variance changes are in model 4 where conscientiousness accounted for a 10% increase compared to the previous change. At the last model where self-directedness is entered, a 5% increase was noted and was made significant. The authors cautioned that self-directedness effect is greater as it seems to encompass part of neuroticism, where the latter was also a significant predictor now rendered insignificant when self-directedness came into the picture.

The final model revealed five significant independent variables: “number of times having achieved less than initially planned in the past 4 week due to emotional problems”, hours spent online for computer gaming each week, affinity towards horror movies, conscientiousness, and self-directedness. The total explained variance is .27.


This is quite interesting to see self-directedness as a significant factor for internet addiction. Another interesting methodological finding is the testing of their hypotheses through videogame players. I am rather curious whether self-directedness having any conceptual relationship with self-determination theory as I recall from an earlier study by the self-determination VG researcher, Andrew Przybylski, that individuals whose needs are unfulfilled with their real life self find their virtual life more satisfying and they are more in tune with their virtual life. I am also curious on any self-determination research on life goals and purposes.

The authors noted that using a general internet addiction measure would suggest that scores would be higher if using a more specialized measure (i.e. a first-person or gaming addiction measure). Although, they are open to the possibility that it might only apply to general internet addiction.

The authors decided to compare this study’s Internet addiction scores with an earlier study of theirs that used a general population and found that this study’s average score was higher. They argued that such strong association would still be present if using a specialized measure.

Two protective factors were found in their results: self-directedness and conscientiousness. The authors explained that conscientiousness plays an important role in achieving life goals as being someone who feel responsible for doing tasks to completion and on time might reasonably protect the individual from internet addiction. Although, I think a bit of self-monitoring training would help low conscientious individuals to compensate. In any case, the authors would agree that including conscientiousness into account would help in therapy would help.

Risk factors they found, psychological and physical well-being, in their results supported earlier findings. So, keeping yourself healthy physically and mentally works across all life domains. The authors hypothesized that trait anger would have positive relationship to internet addiction and they found it has, but it was rendered insignificant at the final model.

Please do note that the findings are correlational. It is possible that internet addiction may cause physical and psychological impairments or even a third variable may have a role in it. The authors noted using newer general internet addiction measures as their measure used have some weaknesses. The authors finally noted that other genres should be explored, in particular Facebook gamers.

Montag, C., Flierl, M., Markett, S., Walter, N., Jurkiewicz, M., & Reuter, M. (2011). Internet addiction and personality in First-Person-shooter video gamers. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 23 (4), 163-173. DOI: 10.1027/1864-1105/a000049


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