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Searching for Affective and Cognitive Restoration: Examining the Restorative Effects of Casual Video Game Play

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Objective: We investigated the effects of a passive break, relaxation activity, and casual video game on affect, stress, engagement, and cognitive performance. Background: Reducing stress and improving cognitive performance is critical across many domains. Previous studies investigated taking a break, relaxation techniques, or playing a game; however, these methods have not been compared within a single experiment. Method: Participants completed a baseline affective and cognitive assessment (ACA), which included the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, shortened version of the Dundee Stress State Questionnaire, and backward digit-span. Next, participants completed a vigilance task, followed by another ACA. Participants were then assigned at random to complete a break or relaxation activity or play a casual video game, followed by a final ACA. Results: Participants who played the casual video game exhibited greater engagement and affective restoration than the relaxation condition. The break condition slightly decreased affect and prevented cognitive restoration. Conclusion: Playing a casual video game even briefly can restore individuals’ affective abilities, making it a suitable activity to restore mood in response to stress. However, future research is needed to find activities capable of cognitive restoration. Application: Many activities in life require sustained cognitive demand, which are stressful and decrease performance, especially for workers in performance-critical domains. Our research suggests some leisure activities are better than others for restoring fatigued affective processes.
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Objective: We investigated the effects of a pas-
sive break, relaxation activity, and casual video game on
affect, stress, engagement, and cognitive performance.
Background: Reducing stress and improving cog-
nitive performance is critical across many domains.
Previous studies investigated taking a break, relaxation
techniques, or playing a game; however, these methods
have not been compared within a single experiment.
Method: Participants completed a baseline affective
and cognitive assessment (ACA), which included the Posi-
tive and Negative Affect Schedule, shortened version of
the Dundee Stress State Questionnaire, and backward
digit-span. Next, participants completed a vigilance task,
followed by another ACA. Participants were then assigned
at random to complete a break or relaxation activity or
play a casual video game, followed by a final ACA.
Results: Participants who played the casual video
game exhibited greater engagement and affective resto-
ration than the relaxation condition. The break condi-
tion slightly decreased affect and prevented cognitive
restoration.
Conclusion: Playing a casual video game even
briefly can restore individuals’ affective abilities, mak-
ing it a suitable activity to restore mood in response
to stress. However, future research is needed to find
activities capable of cognitive restoration.
Application: Many activities in life require sustained
cognitive demand, which are stressful and decrease
performance, especially for workers in performance-
critical domains. Our research suggests some leisure
activities are better than others for restoring fatigued
affective processes.
Keywords: fatigue, stress, cognition, vigilance, mind-
fulness, guided relaxation
INTRODUCTION
Cognitive fatigue (i.e., declines in working
memory and decision making) due to sustained
cognitive effort is a concern in many domains,
occupational and academic (e.g., Demerouti,
Bakker, & Leiter, 2014; Palmer et al., 2013).
Fatigue is especially problematic due to its
prevalence: 60% of Americans regularly expe-
rience stress, including feelings of frustration,
anxiety, and fatigue (Anderson et al., 2015). Indi-
viduals with safety-critical occupations (e.g., air
traffic controllers, pilots, transportation security
officers, medical professionals) may experience
greater cognitive fatigue due to their increased
workload and may commit more errors (Muel-
ler-Leonhardt, Stroebaek, & Vogt, 2015; Terte &
Stephens, 2014).
Due to the high costs of fatigue, finding
empirically validated methods of reducing its
effects are vital. Solving this problem has the
potential to provide benefits both on the job and
in daily life. Previous research has investigated
several methods to mitigate these symptoms and
their impact on performance. Some studies have
examined the effect of rest breaks following
demanding tasks (e.g., Arrabito, Ho, Aghaei,
Burns, & Hou, 2015; Helton & Russell, 2015,
2017). Others have examined the effects of
guided relaxation techniques on cortisol levels
associated with increased stress (Cruess et al.,
2015). Another line of research has examined
the phenomenon of cognitive restoration in
order to understand which tasks can “recharge”
cognitive functioning and why. Restoration has
not been clearly defined, but studies have fre-
quently examined both affective (e.g., mood or
feelings of stress) and cognitive (e.g., working
memory or executive attention) processes (Ber-
man, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008; Berto, 2005;
Emfield & Neider, 2014). Previous research has
also shown a dissociation between affective and
cognitive restoration. In other words, feeling
715360HFSXXX10.1177/0018720817715360Human FactorsCasual Video Games
Address correspondence to Michael A. Rupp, Technology
and Aging Laboratory, Department of Psychology,
University of Central Florida, 4111 Pictor Lane STE 320,
Orlando, FL 32816, USA; e-mail: mrupp@knights.ucf.edu.
Searching for Affective and Cognitive Restoration:
Examining the Restorative Effects of Casual Video
Game Play
Michael A. Rupp, Richard Sweetman, Alejandra E. Sosa, Janan A. Smither,
and Daniel S. McConnell, University of Central Florida, Orlando
HUMAN FACTORS
Vol. XX, No. X, Month XXXX, pp. 1 –12
DOI: 10.1177/0018720817715360
Copyright © 2017, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
2 Month XXXX - Human Factors
better is not the same as performing better
(Finkbeiner, Russell, & Helton, 2016), making
it critical to study both sides of restoration. We
will refer to this composite approach as affec-
tive and cognitive restoration.
Casual Video Games
While activities such as watching TV are
reported to help individuals cope with stress
(Anderson et al., 2015), playing video games has
been overlooked. Video games have received
considerable attention for their potential ben-
efits to health and cognitive functioning (e.g.,
Boot, Blakely, & Simons, 2011; Fuyuno, 2007;
Green & Bavelier, 2012; Rahmani & Boren,
2012). While most of this research has focused
on action games (e.g., Halo, Call of Duty), over
200 million individuals play casual video games
(CVGs; Angry Birds, Candy Crush) world-
wide (Casual Games Association [CGA], 2007).
Why do so many people play casual games?
The CGA (2007) reports that the top reason is
stress relief and mood improvement (also see
Reinecke, 2009a, 2009b). Additionally, unlike
action games, CVGs are recreational games that
are simple to play, easy to learn, and designed
to be played in short intervals—perfect for use
during a short break from work.
Because so many workers claim CVGs help
them to manage their stress (Reinecke, 2009b),
could playing a CVG during a short break lead
to affective and cognitive restoration? To date,
only a few studies have addressed that question.
Two studies (Russoniello, O’Brien, & Parks,
2009a, 2009b) compared participants playing
CVGs to a control condition who browsed the
Internet. CVG players exhibited better mood
and less stress compared to controls. In contrast,
recent work suggests that playing video games
during a break impairs working memory perfor-
mance (Kuschpel et al., 2015; Liu, Schad, Kus-
chpel, Rapp, & Heinz, 2016).
While these studies are relevant to our research
question, a key limitation in this line of research is
the level of fatigue participants experienced prior
to their participation, as researchers did not induce
fatigue prior to gameplay, and thus they do not
directly address the question of whether CVG play
is restorative. To address this, we used a vigilance
task to induce cognitive fatigue prior to treatment.
The vigilance paradigm requires participants to
maintain focused attention over an extended
period of time while ignoring distractions (Davies
& Parasuraman, 1982). Remaining vigilant is a
key component of the many fatigue-inducing
work settings, making it appropriate to address
our question (Warm, Finomore, Vidulich, &
Funke, 2015). The sustained cognitive demands
required to maintain vigilance are both stressful
and fatigue-inducing (Warm, Parasuraman, &
Matthews, 2008). Vigilance performance declines
over time as individuals are unable to recharge
their figurative cognitive batteries at the rate they
are depleted by the vigil (Finkbeiner et al., 2016).
The magnitude of this vigilance decrement is used
as a measure of the task demand placed on the
individual and illustrates the idea that fatigued
workers may commit more errors. Vigilance tasks
are often lengthy. However, the methodology
employed by Temple et al. (2000) was able to rep-
licate the effects of longer vigils in a shortened
period. Therefore, this task is ideal for use in the
current study. Our use of this abbreviated vigil will
supplement the literature by examining the effects
of vigilance not only on subjective reports of affect
and stress but also on cognitive performance. Pre-
viously, Warm et al. (2015) theorized that the sus-
tained cognitive effort required to be vigilant over
prolonged periods induces cognitive fatigue,
which is consistent with the claims of attention
restoration theory (ART; Kaplan, 1995). ART sep-
arated attention into both active and passive states;
while in use, such as during a vigil, cognitive
resources are depleted over time but are allowed to
replenish in situations that no longer require sus-
tained attention.
Current Research
First we used an abbreviated vigil to deplete
cognition and induce fatigue prior to measuring
participants’ stress, mood, and working mem-
ory, which we refer to as an affective and cogni-
tive assessment (ACA). This design will allow
us to address the question of whether CVG play
provides positive affective and cognitive resto-
ration following the vigilance task, serving here
as a model for fatiguing work conditions.
Moreover, we included a guided relaxation
activity as an established method for reducing
stress (Souders, Yordon, Hamilton, & Charness,
Casual Video Games
3
2010) and a passive break control. If CVG play
is in fact restorative, then we expected to observe
improvements in the ACA following CVG play
that were equal to or greater than the other inter-
ventions. Mindful relaxation techniques have
been shown to improve both affect (Lykins &
Baer, 2009) and cognition (Zeidan, Johnson,
Diamond, David, & Goolkasian, 2010), making
this condition useful for comparison.
METHODS
This research complied with the American
Psychological Association Code of Ethics and
was approved by the Institutional Review Board
at the University of Central Florida where the
study took place. Informed consent was obtained
from each participant.
Participants
Sixty-six undergraduate students, 20 men and
46 women, with normal or corrected-to-normal
acuity and color vision participated in the cur-
rent study. Participants did not self-report any
additional sensory or motor deficiencies. Partic-
ipants self-reported their caffeine consumption
within the 12 hours prior to their arrival at the
lab as no more than two eight-ounce beverages.
Participants received course credit for partici-
pation. Their ages ranged from 18 to 33 years
of age, with a mean age of 20.28 (SD = 2.72).
Overall, participants averaged 3.57 (SD = 4.82)
hours of weekly casual video game play but did
not report having any previous experience with
Sushi Cat 2, the casual game used in the cur-
rent study. Due to technical issues, we omitted
data from 1 person, leaving 65 participants for
further analysis. Table 1 shows demographic
breakdown by condition.
Materials and Apparatus
The computer-based tasks employed in this
study were performed on a Dell computer
running Windows 7. Participants wore noise-
canceling headphones and sat 66 cm from a
Dell E176FP 43.2 cm flat panel LCD display
(1,280 × 1,024 pixel resolution; 60 Hz refresh
rate). The display thus subtended a diagonal
visual angle of approximately 14.7°. The testing
room was illuminated with common fluorescent
lighting, and the workstation was situated so
that glare was minimized. Experimental tasks
were presented using E-prime v.2.10 (Psychol-
ogy Software Tools, Pittsburgh, PA; Schneider,
Eschman, & Zuccolotto, 2002).
We used the Temple et al. (2000) abbreviated
vigilance task to induce fatigue. Participants’
head movements were unrestrained. The task
consisted of the rapid presentation of either a
low probability target (letter O) or two distrac-
tors (forward or backward letter D) presented as
8 × 6 mm light grey capital letters in 24-point
Avant Garde font centered on the display screen
and displayed with a visual mask so that the let-
ter stimuli appeared to be underneath due to
interposition. The mask consisted of 1 mm
diameter unfilled dark grey circles uniformly
spaced on a white background. Each circle was
outlined in a .25 mm–thick black line. For all
conditions, both practice and experimental, the
proportion of target signal trials was held con-
stant at .20, and the proportion of non-target
stimulus trials was held constant at .80. Stimulus
presentation was 40 milliseconds on each trial,
with an inter-stimulus interval of 1000 millisec-
onds (Figure 1). During the task, participants
were instructed to monitor the center of the
display for the target stimulus and press the
TABLE 1: Means and Standard Deviations of Demographic Information of Study Participants
Break (n = 22) Relaxation (n = 21) Game (n = 22)
Age (years) 19.36 (1.29) 21.14 (3.92) 20.36 (2.17)
Casual video game hours per week played 4.55 (5.54) 3.19 (4.80) 2.95 (4.08)
Gender
Men (N) 7 6 7
Women (N) 15 15 15
4 Month XXXX - Human Factors
computer space bar when a target appeared and
to not respond to non-target stimuli.
Participants first completed 5 minutes of
practice trials with knowledge of results feed-
back, the purpose of which was to familiarize
participants with the vigilance task. Thus, during
practice, participants received auditory feedback
as the words hit, miss, and false were spoken
aloud for hit, miss, and false alarm responses,
respectively; no feedback was given for correct
rejections. We did not set a minimum hit or false
alarm rate that participants needed to achieve
prior to continued participation in the study. Fol-
lowing practice, participants completed six con-
tinuous 2.5-minute periods of watch without
knowledge of results feedback. Each continuous
period of watch consisted of 120 trials (24 criti-
cal; 96 neutral). The proportion of target signal
trials to non-target trials was consistent within
periods.
The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule
(PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) was
given to assess both positive and negative affect.
A shortened, 20-question version of the Dundee
Stress State Questionnaire (DSSQ-S; Matthews,
Emo, & Funke, 2005; Matthews, Joyner, Gillil-
and, Huggins, & Falconer, 1999) was used to
assess three aspects of stress: task engagement,
distress, and worry. The PANAS and DSSQ-S
instruments were administered to participants at
pre-vigil, post-vigil, and post-intervention.
These were administered via pencil and paper
and scored according to the original authors’
methodology.
A computerized adaptive version of a back-
ward digit-span (BDS) task was administered to
each participant at pre-vigil, post-vigil, and post-
intervention as a measure of working memory
span. The test used a staircase-type procedure to
present a series of numbers via the headphones
that varied from three to nine digits in length,
after which the participant would use the com-
puter keyboard to type in the digits in reverse
order. The BDS started with a three-digit numer-
ical series, increasing in length by one digit each
time participants consecutively answered two
trials correctly and decreasing by one digit fol-
lowing each incorrect trial. After 14 trials were
administered, participant’s digit-span was
recorded as the length of the final series per-
formed correctly for two consecutive trials. This
method was modeled after previous research
(Emfield & Neider, 2014).
The independent variable of interest was the
type of intervention applied after the vigilance
task. Participants played Sushi Cat 2 (Armor
Games, Irvine, CA), engaged in a guided relax-
ation exercise, or sat quietly. Sushi Cat 2 (Figure
2) is a pachinko-type game and was used as it
was a prototypical casual game that while being
novel to participants, was simple with easy to
understand instructions. It did not contain spe-
cific memory demands or violence, and minor
increases in difficulty with increasing levels
Figure 1. Display of the abbreviated vigilance task. Example of target stimuli for three
sample consecutive trials. ISI = 1000 milliseconds.
Casual Video Games
5
helped keep participants engaged without being
overwhelmed. At the beginning of a level, Sushi
Cat appears near the top of the pegboard. The
horizontal position of the character is deter-
mined by the on-screen cursor position, as con-
trolled by the computer mouse. Players use the
mouse to move Sushi Cat to a desired position at
the top of the pegboard and click the left mouse
button to drop the character onto the pegs. Once
released, Sushi Cat bounces around, ultimately
landing in one of five bins with assorted point
values. As Sushi Cat falls, it collects sushi items
that are placed throughout the pegboard. The
goal is to complete the level by collecting all of
the sushi. In each level, players have a total of
five drops of Sushi Cat in order to collect as
much sushi as possible before continuing to the
next level. As the Sushi Cat eats more sushi, it
increases in size and weight, increasing game-
play complexity as the level progresses. Prior to
play, participants in this condition were shown a
PowerPoint tutorial regarding how to play the
game. During play, a black mask was placed
over the computer screen so that only the game
window was visible within a 20 cm × 30 cm
rectangle centered on the screen.
The guided relaxation intervention was a
5.5-minute procedure developed by Souders
et al. (2010) and was shown to be effective in
reducing self-reported and physiological indica-
tors of stress. The activity consisted of an audio
recording of a woman’s voice that instructed
participants through a deep breathing meditation
and body awareness exercise by directing atten-
tion to individual body parts in a sequential fash-
ion. Finally, the break condition consisted of a
quiet period where participants were told to wait
a moment before the next part of the study. They
were not able to leave the lab or use their phone
or the lab computer during that time. All inter-
ventions lasted for an equal amount of time (5.5
minutes).
Procedure
At the start, participants provided consent
and completed the demographics surveys and
vision screening (Snellen acuity and Ishihara
tests). Participants were seated at the computer
and donned noise-canceling headphones, which
they wore for the duration of the study. Next,
they completed baseline (pre-vigil) ACA mea-
sures (PANAS, DSSQ-S, and BDS). Participants
were instructed to rate how they were feeling at
the moment for both the PANAS and DSSQ-S
at baseline. The order of presentation of the
PANAS and DSSQ-S was balanced across par-
ticipants. The presentation of these instruments
was then followed by the presentation of the
Figure 2. Screenshot from Sushi Cat 2 (Armor Games, Irvine, CA).
6 Month XXXX - Human Factors
BDS. Participants were assigned at random to
one of the three interventions, break, guided
relaxation, or CVG. Depending on condition,
each participant received either a brief overview
of the game Sushi Cat 2 or the relaxation tape or
was told that a break would follow the vigilance
task. After the vigil, participants completed a
post-vigil ACA, which was immediately fol-
lowed by their assigned intervention condition.
After the intervention, participants completed
a post-intervention ACA. With regard to the
PANAS and DSSQ-S measures, participants
were instructed to rate their vigil experience for
the post-vigil ACA and their assigned interven-
tion as the task for the post-intervention ACA.
RESULTS
We quantified participants’ performance dur-
ing the vigil as a manipulation check to ensure
it produced the desired cognitive fatigue (Figure
3). Evidence for fatigue was defined in terms of
a vigilance decrement, as measured by a decline
in correct target detections over time. The
15-minute vigil was divided into six continuous
2.5-minute intervals or periods of watch. We
then conducted a 3 (intervention) × 6 (periods
of watch) mixed ANOVA on the target detection
rate, correcting for violations of the assump-
tion of sphericity using the Box correction.
Data from Period 1 and Period 2 did not meet
assumptions for normality. Because of this, we
compared the results of the data analysis con-
ducted on both arcsine transformed data and the
untransformed values. The data transformation
did not affect the interpretation of the results.
Thus, we report only the analysis conducted on
the raw scores. We found a significant effect of
time on watch, F(4.3, 264.5) = 33.21, p < .001,
ηP
2 = .35. Bonferroni corrected t tests were
conducted to compare performance in the first
block with each subsequent block to quantify
the change in performance over time. Our post
hoc comparisons revealed that performance
significantly declined with period on watch.
Correct detections for Periods 2 (p = .002), 3
(p < .001), 4 (p < .001), 5 (p < .001), and 6 (p <
.001) were all significantly lower than Period 1.
The average correct detection rate was 94.16%,
95% CI [0.92, 0.96] in Period 1 and declined
to 76.28%, 95% CI [0.71, 0.81] by the end of
the vigil. This decline is apparent in Figure 3,
which also depicts data from the practice ses-
sion (not analyzed) for comparison. We did
not find any effects of intervention condition
Figure 3. Percentages of correct detections during the vigilance task for participants
assigned to the break, guided relaxation, and casual video game conditions plotted by
periods of watch. Error bars indicate 95% confidence intervals. Results are listed for the
practice period (Prac) as well as the six 2.5-minute watch periods.
Casual Video Games
7
(p = .14) or a period by intervention interaction
(p = .82), indicating that participants in all three
conditions experienced similar levels of fatigue.
Performance during the abbreviated vigil was
similar to Temple et al. (2000), replicating the
vigilance decrement.
For all subsequent analyses, participants’
scores on each component of the ACA were con-
verted into standardized change z scores (Post-
Pre/σPre). The pre-vigil scores were used as the
pre-condition for the post-vigil scores, and the
post-vigil scores were used as the pre-condition
for the post-intervention scores. To examine if
each ACA component significantly changed
from pre- to post-vigil (Figure 4) or from post-
vigil to post-intervention (Figure 5) we exam-
ined 95% confidence intervals of the standard-
ized change scores against a hypothesis of no
change. When the error bars do not overlap zero,
we consider this evidence of a significant non-
zero change. One-way ANOVAs were used to
investigate differences between each condition.
Because all participants were assigned at ran-
dom to each condition and received the same
vigilance task, changes pre- to post-vigil were
examined by using the average of each condition
instead of the score for each condition separately
(included in Figure 4). Based on the average
confidence intervals, there was a significant
decline in positive affect (M = −1.32, 95%, CI
[−1.57, 1.07]) and an increase in negative affect
(M = 0.70, 95% CI [0.48, 0.92]) on the PANAS.
For the DSSQ-S scale, there was a decrease in
worry (M = −1.23, 95% CI [−1.54, −0.92]), an
increase in distress (M = 2.20, 95% CI [1.73,
2.67]), and a small decline in engagement (M =
−0.40, 95% CI [−0.71, −0.09]). These results are
thus consistent with prior vigilance research
with regard to declines in affect. However,
scores on the backward digit-span did not
decrease (M = −0.37, 95% CI [−0.64, 0.10])
post-vigil.
As revealed by one-way independent groups
ANOVAs (Table 2), these effects did not vary as a
Figure 4. Standardized change scores indicating change from baseline as measured after
the vigilance task (pre-intervention) for each of the affective and cognitive assessment
(ACA) components as measured by the shortened version of the Dundee Stress State
Questionnaire, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, and backward digit-span. Error
bars represent 95% confidence intervals. An average, collapsed across all conditions, is
included to aid interpretation of the results.
8 Month XXXX - Human Factors
function of the intervention conditions except in
regard to the distress measure. In the case of that
measure, participants in the guided relaxation con-
dition experienced a larger increase in distress fol-
lowing the vigilance task than participants in the
break and game conditions. Because all of the par-
ticipants were assigned at random and experi-
enced the same tasks at this point, we concluded
that this was due to measurement error rather than
a unique property of this condition. We note that
the relaxation condition had a lower baseline score
than the other conditions as well as a larger post-
vigil score for distress, which when combined led
to the significant change in distress found. Because
we used standardized change scores, this finding
does not affect the results of intra-condition differ-
ences, but by experiencing greater distress post-
vigil, the relaxation condition may have been
more likely to recover from their feelings of dis-
tress post-intervention and thus should be inter-
preted more conservatively.
Next, we analyzed the change scores as mea-
sured post-intervention to determine the degree
to which each intervention restored each com-
ponent of the ACA. Hours of casual video game
experience was evaluated as a possible covari-
ate but did not meet inclusion criteria due to not
being correlated with the dependent variables
(DVs) and was excluded from analysis. We con-
ducted a one-way ANOVA on each ACA com-
ponent using the standardized post-intervention
change scores. We found significant effects of
intervention for all DVs except distress and
digit-span (Table 2). In these two instances,
the differences between conditions were not
significant.
Using the same approach we used to analyze
change post-vigil using confidence intervals (in
Figure 5), the video game condition was the
only intervention to increase engagement, while
the break condition was associated with a
decrease in engagement. All three conditions led
to a decline in distress. The game was also the
only intervention to decrease worry, while the
break condition was associated with an increase
in worry. Further, the game was again the only
Figure 5. Standardized change scores indicating change following the three intervention
tasks (post-intervention) for each of the affective and cognitive assessment (ACA)
components as measured by the shortened version of the Dundee Stress State
Questionnaire, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, and backward digit-span. Error
bars represent 95% confidence intervals.
Casual Video Games
9
intervention to increase positive affect. Both the
game and the relaxation condition reduced nega-
tive affect. Finally, the relaxation condition was
the only condition to show an increase in back-
ward digit-span and indicate some level of cog-
nitive restoration, while the break condition led
to a decline in this measure.
DISCUSSION
First, our results demonstrated that in addition
to the well-known vigilance decrement, there are
affective and cognitive consequences of a short
vigilance task. We have also demonstrated that
breaks from work can counteract these conse-
quences, supporting prior work (Finkbeiner et al.,
2016). Differing from this previous work, how-
ever, our results suggest that what one does to rest
during this break matters. Tasks that continue to
deplete cognitive resources will not be restorative
(Helton & Russell, 2017). While each interven-
tion led to some affective restoration, the CVG
was the only condition associated with restoration
on all five affective components. In summary,
after playing the game, participants exhibited
greater positive affect and task engagement as
compared to other conditions. Negative affect and
worry also decreased more following the game
than after the break. On the other hand, in terms
of feelings of distress and working memory span,
restoration associated with the game was statisti-
cally equivalent to the other interventions. The
increase in digit-span from the game was not sig-
nificant, but it is worth noting that this finding is
not consistent with prior work reporting declines
in cognitive performance following game play
(Kuschpel et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2016).
Individuals in the relaxation condition
showed decreased negative affect and distress
and improved digit-span performance when com-
pared to this condition’s post-vigil ACA scores,
but these improvements were not significantly
better than any other conditions. This finding dif-
fered from prior work (Zeidan et al., 2010) that
showed a mindfulness intervention both reduced
TABLE 2: Test Statistics for ANOVAs Conducted Both Following the Abbreviated Vigilance Task
(Post-Vigil) and the Experimental Intervention of the Break, Relaxation, or Game Condition (Post-
Intervention)
Source Test pηp
2Post Hoc t Tests
Change post-vigil
Positive affect F(2, 62) = 1.40 .25 .04 NA
Negative affect F(2, 62) = 2.51 .09 .08 NA
Engagement F(2, 62) = 0.35 .71 .01 NA
Distress F(2, 62) = 5.99 .004 .16 Relax > break (p = .009); relax >
game (p = .015)
Worry F(2, 62) = 0.067 .94 .002 NA
Backward digit-span F(2, 62) = 0.93 .29 .04 NA
Change post-intervention
Positive affect F(2, 62) = 23.12 <.001 .43 Game > break (p = .001); game
> relax (p < .001)
Negative affect F(2, 62) = 4.03 .02 .12 Game < break (p = .024)
Engagement F(2, 62) = 28.74 <.001 .48 Game > break (p < .001); game
> relax (p < .001)
Distress F(2, 62) = 1.43 .25 .04 NA
Worry F(2, 62) = 14.70 <.001 .32 Game < break (p < .001); relax
< break (p = .005)
Backward digit-span F(2, 62) = 1.30 .28 .04 NA
Note. Results show differences between each experimental condition. p values were tested against a Bonferroni
adjusted alpha level. NA = not applicable.
10 Month XXXX - Human Factors
anxiety and fatigue and also improved working
memory and executive functioning. One reason
may be that we used too short a duration, 5.5 min-
utes instead of the 20 minutes used by Zeidan and
colleagues (2010). Moreover, our participants
may not have been experienced enough. The long-
term practice of relaxation techniques has been
shown to improve health, enhance mood, and help
individuals cope and self-regulate stress (e.g.,
Lykins & Baer, 2009), and so it may be the case
that people would garner greater benefits from the
relaxation exercise with more mindfulness experi-
ence.
In the passive break condition, we observed
limited evidence of restoration. While participants
in this condition reported reduced feelings of dis-
tress, they also reported decreased engagement
and increased worry, findings that are counterpro-
ductive to restoration. This condition did not
improve positive affect, and participants’ digit-
span decreased from the post-vigil measurement,
indicating that participants were still using cogni-
tive resources preventing recovery, a finding con-
sistent with ART (Kaplan, 1995). Although we do
not know the content of our participants’ thoughts
while sitting quietly, this finding may also be con-
sistent with recent work showing that people find
such tasks unpleasant (Wilson et al., 2014). It may
also be the case that affective restoration requires
some degree of engagement in a task (see also
Finkbeiner et al., 2016). Our work highlights that
a casual video game is at least one task that has
this affective benefit, but there are surely many
activities that may improve mood.
Although the game condition did not restore
cognition, the improvements in affect may
explain their popularity and still provide a work-
place benefit (CGA, 2007; Reinecke, 2009a,
2009b). Disengaging from work has been cited
as key to stress recovery (Sonnentag & Fritz,
2015). ART suggests that cognition can only
recover when not in active use (Kaplan, 1995)—
such as when one is not at work. This type of
attention was originally proposed by James
(1890) and elaborated by Kaplan (1995) to
describe involuntary attention as a mode of
functioning that is effortless, allowing for cogni-
tive recovery. In contrast, Ulrich (1984) claimed
it is not the separation from work itself but an
effect that is mediated through engaging in
relaxing activities. For example, staying active
during a break (e.g., taking a walk, reading a
book) has been found to increase post-break job
performance and affect (Fritz, Ellis, Demsky,
Lin, & Guros, 2013).
The degree of directed attention was not con-
trolled across the three interventions, therefore it
is not possible to assess the implications of our
findings for Kaplan’s ART. In terms of Ulrich’s
theory, while we did find a positive affective
response to the video game, it was not associated
with a corresponding improvement in cognition,
at least as measured by the backward digit-span.
However, a more comprehensive set of cogni-
tive tests may need to be used in order to deter-
mine whether such findings are consistent with
Ulrich’s theory. It may also be true, however,
that affect and cognitive performance are not
directly related. One recent study found active
breaks created positive emotional reactions but
did not improve task performance over and
above passive breaks (Finkbeiner et al., 2016).
These authors concluded that performance and
well-being may be separate and independent
capacities requiring true rest to replenish. This
finding was supported by Helton and Russell
(2017), who demonstrated breaks must fully dis-
engage cognitive resources to be restorative.
Our findings support this conclusion also;
although video games were engaging and enjoy-
able, they did not improve cognition. Also, while
guided relaxation did not increase positive
affect, this is the only condition to show an
increased digit-span following the vigilance
task. However, more research is needed to inves-
tigate this potential dissociation.
CONCLUSIONS
We have discussed the critical issue of affec-
tive and cognitive fatigue at work, especially for
those who work in critical jobs (e.g., security,
medical, and military personnel). Our findings
provide evidence that playing casual video
games could be an effective and even fun way to
recover from such fatigue, at least in the affec-
tive domain. However, it is important to make
the distinction that decreasing stress, increasing
mood, and having fun are not completely inter-
changeable. Though gaming may be fun and
may reduce subjective reports of stress, there
Casual Video Games
11
are many other activities that some classify as
fun (e.g., exercise) that are also stressful. This
is especially true for some video games. Players
state that they are having fun even when playing
video games that are stressful. We also note that
games that are too difficult for players may also
be frustrating (Przybylski, Deci, Rigby, & Ryan,
2014). Thus, these findings may not be general-
izable to all games. Future research should be
devoted to trying to tease out the specific char-
acteristics a CVG must have in order to support
affective restoration.
We generalize our findings to the context of
work; however, the laboratory environment may
not completely generalize to real work situations.
Studies using a CVG intervention during shift-
work are needed to further support our findings.
Finally, because our guided relaxation condi-
tion outperformed the break or game conditions
in terms of cognitive restoration, future research
should focus on replicating and extending this
finding in the workplace. Although games may
make a worker feel better, how to make them
perform better is still unknown. We also encour-
age future work leveraging the engagement of
games to create more effective interventions to
restore cognitive ability. The perfect workplace
activity that is short and engaging and restoring
affect and also cognitive ability has yet to be
found.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank Gabrielle Simon, Fernando Montalvo,
and James Kozachuk for their assistance collecting
and coding data as well as Jessica R. Michaelis for
her reviews during writing. The authors declared that
they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their
authorship or the publication of this article.
KEY POINTS
Taking a passive break from a cognitive task
(work) did not restore affective and cognitive
processes.
Performing a relaxation exercise does not provide
as much affective restoration as a casual video
game.
Our results supported the idea that video games
can improve mood and reduce perceived stress.
Affect and cognitive ability may have different
requirements for restoration.
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the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2016.
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the University of Central Florida. She received her
PhD in experimental psychology from Johns Hop-
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Daniel S. McConnell is an associate lecturer at the
University of Central Florida. He received his PhD in
sensory psychology from Indiana University in 1999.
Date received: November 12, 2015
Date accepted: May 12, 2017
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... Not all activities are equivalent in restorative properties. Rupp et al. [25] show that playing games and reading are both more restorative than doing nothing. They distinguish between affective restoration (feeling better) and cognitive restoration (performing better), and show that playing games causes affective restoration. ...
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Mostly, restorative environments, like parks and forests, are only thought of in the real world. However, one can wonder whether their restorative effects translate to a virtual world; and whether the environment itself makes any difference. In order to assess the possible translation of restorative properties from the real world to a virtual setting, we developed Resto Quest, a single-player, first-person exploration game, designed to investigate the possible restorative effects of both natural and urban virtual environments. Resto Quest is playable on a normal personal computer, and its main game play loop consists of exploring the environment, locating in it a task to accomplish, and completing a simple minigame. After completion of each minigame, a positive change in the scenery takes place. Evaluation of Resto Quest has shown that players found its game mechanics relaxing, and that the minigames offer balanced difficulty between two interchangeable environments.
... This mean difference in PSS score is similar to the results found in other studies examining the effectiveness of mobile-based stress management apps [42][43][44][45][46]. Likewise, the findings from this study add to the existing array of literature that have demonstrated video games such as the Legend of Evelys to be effective in lowering psychological stress and improving mood [17,18,[47][48][49]. Participants mentioned that using the video game distracted them from their daily stressors, and that the mindfulness exercise was particularly useful at moments of stress. ...
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Objective: We examined the impact task interruptions of differing qualitative and quantitative load have on visuospatial vigilance sensitivity. Background: The vigilance decrement and attempts to develop countermeasures to the decrement is one of the most important human factors issues. There is an ongoing debate between those who interpret the increase in the rate of failures to detect signals over time as being due to objective task monotony or task underload and those who interpret this increased failure proneness as being predominately due to cognitive-resource depletion and task overload. Method: Participants were assigned at random to one of six interruptions: Participants were given a complete rest (rest); participants completed a 1-back verbal working-memory (WM) task, a 3-back verbal WM task, a 1-back spatial WM task, or a 3-back spatial WM task; or participants performed the primary vigilance task (continuous). Results: Postinterruption performance was best for rest and worst for continuous. A resource theory perspective led us to make two possible predictions of relative interruption effect orders of the six conditions out of 720 possible orderings. We found one of the two orders. Conclusion: Overall, the vigilance sensitivity decrement appears to be due to the recurring use of particular cognitive resources, and resource theorists should explore this more extensively in the future. Application: Countermeasures for the vigilance decrement should be based on clear cognitive-resource considerations. Rest is the best countermeasure. Intervening tasks should be chosen that minimize resource-demand overlap with the vigilance task.
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Introduction Vigilance or sustained attention/vigilant attention refers to the ability of observers to maintain their focus of attention and remain alert to stimuli over prolonged periods (Davies and Parasuraman, 1982; Hancock, 2013; Langner and Eickhoff, 2012, Warm, 1984a; 1993). A variety of psychophysical factors affect the quality of vigilance performance and vigilance tasks are mentally demanding and stressful. After considering the historical roots and current importance of vigilance research, this chapter will describe the psychophysical, workload, and stress elements associated with the maintenance of sustained attention and consider recent developments in theoretical models used to account for vigilance performance. The chapter will conclude with some suggestions for the translation of basic research knowledge to vigilance performance in operational settings. Historical Background The term “vigilance” was coined by Sir Henry Head (1923), who used it to refer to a state of maximum physiological and psychological readiness to react. Early research on this topic was conducted by the British Industrial Fatigue Board in the production and inspection of ammunition during World War I (Vernon, 1921) and by Wyatt and Langdon (1932), who described time-related variations in the performance of inspectors examining cartridge cases for flaws prior to packaging. However, controlled laboratory research on sustained attention is generally considered to have begun during World War II. It was stimulated by surprising fallibility in the performance of British airborne radar observers while on patrol for enemy submarines. Despite extensive training and high motivation to perform well, the observers failed to notice the weak signals on their pulse-position radar displays signifying the presence of enemy submarines on the surface of the sea below, particularly toward the end of the watch. As a result, the submarines were free to prey on British ships.
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The aim of this paper is to shift the representation of coping patterns within high risk occupations to an existential part of cultural pattern and social structure, which characterises high reliability organisations. Drawing upon the specific peer model of critical incident stress management (CISM), in which qualified operational peers support colleagues who experienced critical incident stress, the paper discusses critical incident stress management in air traffic control. Our study revealed coping patterns that co-vary with the culture that the CISM programme fostered within this specific high reliability organisation. Seen as a social construct, CISM culture was found effective in the interaction of operational staff, supervisors and the CISM programme manager. We were able to demonstrate that social mechanisms of trust, interaction and communication are important factors in high reliability organisations. Indeed, we found that the CISM programme once integrated within the socio-cultural patterns of this specific working environment enhanced not only individual feelings of being supported but also organisational safety culture.
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This pilot study examined whether brief 1-session stress management strategies can reduce acute subjective distress and buffer physiological stress responses to a laboratory-based social stress test. We randomized 120 healthy young adults to a brief enhanced-mindfulness intervention, a somatic-relaxation intervention, or an attention-only control group. All participants then underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST; Kirschbaum, Pirke, & Hellhammer, 1993), a highly standardized and validated laboratory-based social stress induction protocol. We examined acute subjective distress via self-report, as well as salivary assays of cortisol (sCORT) and alpha-amylase (sAA) during the experiment. Participants in the 2 active stress management groups reported significant reductions in subjective distress during the intervention portion compared with the control group. There were also significant group differences for sCORT responsiveness to the TSST favoring the stress management groups. Reductions in subjective distress reported during the brief interventions were significantly associated with attenuation in sCORT response during the TSST. These results provide preliminary evidence that even very brief stress management strategies may be effective in reducing acute distress and also at buffering physiological response during social stress. Practical implications of these findings and future research are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)