Motivated cognition in video games: The influence of emotional video game content on cognitive processing of billboard advertisements embedded in first-person shooter games



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This study, guided by the Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing (LC4MP), examines motivated cognitive processing of billboard advertisements embedded in the periphery of first-person shooter (FPS) video games. Specifically, this study investigates how valence and arousal in central game content activate the human motivational systems, and thereby influence emotional feelings and cognitive resources allocated to encoding and storage of the embedded advertisements. Utilizing a custom-built FPS video game, this study employed a 2 (Valence: pleasant and unpleasant) × 2 (Arousal: calm and arousing) within-subjects experimental design with a 6 (Presentation Order) between-subjects factor. Data from 71 participants who played the FPS video game were analyzed for self-reported emotional experience ratings, recognition sensitivity (d′), and cued-recall memory. Recognition sensitivity was used to measure encoding of peripheral information in the form of billboard advertisements. The analyses revealed that encoding was greatest for peripheral advertisements when the emotional tone of the video game content elicited low aversive activation, followed by high appetitive and low appetitive activation, and worst for high aversive activation. Storage of peripheral information in the form of billboard advertisements was measured using cued-recall. Storage was greater for with low appetitive activation when compared with other motivational states. Findings from this study advance theoretical understandings of the influence of emotional tone on motivational activation and cognitive processing of advertisements embedded in video games. Furthermore, this study may contribute to facilitating social and corporate objectives by helping producers of video games and advertisers to understand how to utilize structural and content features within video games to maximize advertising effectiveness.

This dissertation won 2nd Place in the Texas Tech University Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award, Social Sciences, 2014.

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Emotion, Motivated cognition, LC4MP, Peripheral information, In-game advertising, Video games