ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (9): 1041-1050.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.01041

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The relationship between relative deprivation and online gaming addiction in college students: A moderated mediation model

Qian DING1,2,Yun TANG2,3,Hua WEI1,2,Yongxin ZHANG1,2(),Zongkui ZHOU2,3()   

  1. 1 College of Education Science, Xinyang Normal University, Xinyang 464000, China
    2 Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behavior, Ministry of Education, Wuhan 430079, China
    3 School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
  • Received:2017-07-17 Published:2018-09-15 Online:2018-07-27
  • Supported by:


Online gaming is very popular among college students in China. Whereas low to moderate levels of online gaming may be entertaining and provide opportunities to interact with other players online, excessive gaming can lead to online gaming addiction and associated problems such as depression and anxiety. Prior studies have investigated the risk for online gaming addiction in terms of the ecological context in which addiction occurs. The present study has taken a further step by focusing on students’ perceptions of relative deprivation as a macrosystem influence on online gaming addiction. According to the cognitive-behavior model of Pathological Internet Use (PIU), the perception of relative deprivation may increase the risk for online gaming addiction by inducing negative thoughts and emotions or by increasing escape motivation. Importantly, the effect of relative deprivation may be mediated by maladaptive cognition; that is, the perception of relative deprivation may lead to maladaptive cognition, which in turn would predict online gaming addiction. Furthermore, individual differences in mindset may moderate this mediation process, in that entity theorists may be more vulnerable to maladaptive cognition than incremental theorists. In sum, we proposed a moderated mediation model to account for online gaming addiction. Specifically, we tested the relationship between relative deprivation and online gaming addiction, the mediating effect of maladaptive cognition, and the moderating effect of mindset, in a sample of college students.
The participants of this study were 1,008 college students (mean age = 19.03 years, SD = 0.97 year; 795 males, 213 females) who had experience in online game playing. Their average time gaming was 1.74 hours (SD = 2.21 hours) per day in the past half year. The participants completed a battery of questionnaires, including the Financial Relative Deprivation Questionnaire, Maladaptive Cognitions Scale, Implicit Person Theory Measure, and Internet Gaming Disorder Scale.
The proposed moderated mediation model was tested using regression analysis and the PROCESS macro. Previous studies have suggested that online gaming addiction may differ by gender and age. Hence, the effects of gender and age were controlled in all analyses. Results showed that: (1) Relative deprivation positively predicted online gaming addiction in college students. (2) Maladaptive cognition partially mediated this association. (3) This mediating effect was moderated by student mindset, in that it was stronger for students who were entity theorists than for those who were incremental theorists.
The present study is the first to demonstrate the detrimental impact of perceived relative deprivation and the moderated mediation effect of maladaptive cognition and mindset on online gaming addiction. Our findings provide further evidence of the role of ecological context in the risk for online gaming disorder. They also have potential applied value with regard to online gaming addiction in college students. Because incremental theory may be more helpful than entity theory for online gaming addicts, and because incremental theory can be learned through training, understanding students’ self-theories can inform the development of prevention and intervention programs for online gaming addiction.

Key words: relative deprivation, maladaptive cognition, mindsets, online gaming addiction, college students

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