Personality and gaming disorder
Neuroticism and conscientiousness associated with gaming disorder

Ulm University

Certain personality traits appear to be closely linked to gaming disorders. Psychology Professor Christian Montag at Ulm University came to this conclusion by analysing over 50,000 questionnaires from gamers in 150 different countries. According to his analysis, the personality traits “low conscientiousness” and “high neuroticism” can be associated with disordered gaming behaviours. The study was published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Video games have been part of day-to-day life for many people since even before the event of the coronavirus lockdowns. Adolescents, in particular, enjoy immersing themselves in game worlds and spend a lot of time online. Excessive consumption of video games can lead to various negative effects – from sleep disorders to impaired concentration to posture problems. The illness “gaming disorder” has now been included in the World Health Organization (WHO) classification index. Indications of a gaming disorder are loss of control over the video game activity as well as continuing to play despite negative consequences in daily life.

Researchers from Ulm University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the University of London have studied how and whether the development of a gaming disorder is connected to various personality traits. “Up to now, there hadn’t been any studies that had looked at these correlations with respect to the WHO criteria”, explains the first author Professor Christian Montag, head of the Department of Molecular Psychology at Ulm University. The study takes a global approach with a large number of questionnaires, enabling robust results. In total, more than 50,000 online questionnaires were analysed. The participants of the study provided demographic information as well as details on their video gaming behaviour and their personalities.

The well-known “Big Five” personality model was used for the survey of personality traits in the questionnaire. According to this model, a person’s personality can be sorted into five main areas, including openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion (sociability, vitality), agreeableness (compassion, empathy) and neuroticism (emotional instability and vulnerability).

The results of the study indicate that the personality traits “low conscientiousness” and “high neuroticism” are most likely to be associated with a tendency toward disordered gaming behaviour. “Interestingly, the associations between the personality factor and the time spent gaming per week were low. We are aware that the study cannot conclusively clarify whether personality is the cause or the result of the gaming disorder. In light of the stability of personality traits, however, I assume that the first case is more likely”, explains Professor Christian Montag. Further studies should provide clarity in this matter.

In the future, the researchers hope that short personality trait screenings will help to identify at-risk populations. These people would then be offered preventative measures in order to limit the problems linked to gaming disorder.

In order to collect a comprehensive data pool with the largest number of participants possible, the study is part of a global smart gaming campaign. The campaign is running in cooperation with the online tournament and competition event manager Electronic Sports League, an organisation that aims to encourage responsible and healthy gaming behaviour. There is still time for interested parties to participate at The surveyed participants then receive anonymous, personalised feedback on whether they are predisposed to excessive gaming behaviour.

Empirical evidence for robust personality-gaming disorder associations from a large-scale international investigation applying the APA and WHO frameworks; Montag C, Kannen C, Schivinski B, Pontes HM. PLoS One. 2021 Dec 22;16(12):e0261380.

Text and mediacontact: Daniela Stang

Excessive video game consumption can have various negative effects and may even result in a so-called gaming disorder (Symbolic image: Unsplash/Sean Do)
Prof. Christian Montag
Prof Christian Montag, head of the Department of Molecular Psychology (Photo: private)