Theories posit that the combination of external (e.g. cue exposure) and internal (e.g. attention biases) factors contributes to the development of game craving. Nevertheless, whether different components of attentional biases (namely, engagement bias and disengagement bias) play separate roles on game craving has not been fully elucidated. We aimed to examine the associations between two facets of attentional biases and game craving dynamics under a daily life setting.
Participants (110 regular internet game players) accomplished the modified attentional assessment task in the laboratory, after which they entered a 10-day ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to collect data on their momentary game craving and occurrence of game-related events at five different time points per day.
We found that occurrence of game-related events was significantly associated with increased game craving. Moreover, attentional disengagement bias, instead of engagement bias, bore on the occasional level variations of game craving as moderating variables. Specifically, attentional disengagement bias, not engagement bias, was associated with a greater increase in game craving immediately after encountering a game-related event; however, neither attentional engagement bias nor disengagement bias was associated with the craving maintenance after a relatively long period.
Discussion and conclusions
The present study highlights the specific attentional processes involved in game craving dynamics, which could be crucial for designing interventions for attentional bias modification (ABM) in Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) populations.