Assessing Aggressiveness via Reaction Times Online


Aggressive tendencies can be assessed either commonly by explicit measures (self-report questionnaires), or by implicit measures that require the speeded classification of quickly presented stimuli and the recording and analysis of the reaction-times. We explored the psychometric properties of implicit measures assessing aggressiveness objectively: the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and its derivate, the Single-Target IAT. While the IAT focused on the automatic attitude towards aggressiveness, the ST-IAT focused on the self-concept. This feasibility study describes in methodological detail how a diversity of game players can be recruited to take these measures with common web-browser technology, even though reaction-time measurement in the range of a few hundred milliseconds is at stake. Self-reported and objective characteristics of users of violent, less violent, and no games differed. The results are partly in line with what can be expected on the basis of psychological theorizing, but structural-equation modelling shows that implicit measures on attitudes and self-concept differ in quality. Pitfalls and challenges for internet studies on computer players involving reaction-time measures are pointed out.

computer games; implicit association test; single-target IAT; aggressiveness; internet
Author biographies

Matthias Bluemke

Author photo Dr. Matthias Bluemke is an assistant professor of social psychology at the Psychological Institute, University of Heidelberg, D-69117 Heidelberg, Germany. After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Trier, he obtained his diploma in psychology and his doctorate in psychology at the University of Heidelberg. As a member of the social psychology department, his interests lie in group dynamics and cognitive factors of social phenomena with a focus on methods and psychometrics of explicit and implicit measures. He contributed several book chapters and conference papers. He also has published articles in journals of interest to social psychologists and researchers on interindividual differences, among them Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, European Review of Social Psychology, Memory and Cognition, Cognition and Emotion, Aggressive Behavior, and other journals. He served as a peer reviewer to most of these journals. In 2003 he received the Best German Diploma Thesis Award in Social Psychology (in collaboration with Malte Friese) by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie (DGPs). Later he received the prestigious Hengstberger Award to hold a fruitful and stimulating conference on the future of implicit measures at the University of Heidelberg, and two Postdoctoral Fellowships by the German Research Foundation for further research on the validity of implicit measures at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Joerg Zumbach

Author photo Prof. Dr. Joerg Zumbach is a full professor and, since 2007, Head of the Department of Science Education and Teacher Training, University of Salzburg, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria. He obtained his diploma in psychology and doctorate from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. His main interests are educational and instructional psychology, media-based learning, and the media-aggression link. He works at the intersection of theory development and applied research in relation to cognitive processing in computer-based learning environments and blended learning approaches. He is author and editor of several books on web based teaching and problem-based learning. His articles have been published, among others, in Computers in Human Behavior, Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, Journal of Educational Computing Research, Aggressive Behavior, and Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

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