Understanding Children's Choices and Cognition in Video Game Play: A Synthesis of Three Studies

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Zeitschrift fur Psychologie


This article provides a synthesis of a group of research studies conducted to better understand in what ways children’s entertainment video game play choices relate to their creativity, motivations, problem-solving strategies, learning preferences, and beliefs about how to play games. Three studies were conducted among American students: (1) a survey and creativity assessment with students aged 9–11, (2) an in-depth qualitative study with three adolescent boys, and (3) an online survey. Key findings from this research relate to both psychological factors motivating video game play, and cognition and choices children make while playing video games. Results from these studies demonstrate that, despite assumptions that children play video games to avoid mental stimulation, children are actually motivated by the challenge and thinking required by video games. The reward system used in video games is a strong continuing motivator for boys in particular. Among both genders, playing certain genres of video games is related to utilizing particular learning strategies. Additionally, though creativity does not appear to be hindered by video game play, the most creative children are generally not choosing to spend their time on video games. Finally, children create their own code of conduct and ethics within video game play, although an individual’s work ethic within video games tends to reflect patterns in other areas of life. Collectively, these studies provide a rich picture of children’s video game play and show consistency, both between game contexts and real life choices, and with other literature related to children’s motivations and strategies for learning.

Original Citation

Hamlen, K. R. (2013). Understanding children's choices and cognition in video game play: A synthesis of three studies. Zeitschrift fur Psychologie, 221(2), 107-114. doi:10.1027/2151-2604/a000136