Study explores trust in online gamers' psychology
New research from UT Dallas shows that players of massively multiplayer online games, or MMOGs, who are motivated by social elements of online play display more trust in fellow players and a greater willingness to disclose personal information, particularly when the players were members of participants' guild.
In a recent pilot study, Dr. Rosanna Guadagno, associate professor of psychology and emerging media and communication, expanded upon a growing body of work that explores the idea of trust in player psychology.
"Since the early days of the internet, people have used the technology to meet and befriend strangers," Guadagno said. "People have found spouses, long-lost relatives and have had many positive and negative experiences while disclosing personal information to the people we encounter online. MMOGs are one such unique online context in which people need the cooperation of others to achieve their game-related goals, regardless of whether they are achievement, social/relational or something else. Understanding the how and why people disclose personal feelings and experiences to other video game players is crucial to understanding the ways in which cooperation and trust form as players interact with each other and work toward both individual and group goals."
Using player characterizations established by Nick Yee, co-founder of the game analytics consulting practice Quantic Foundry, Guadagno examined patterns in trust and self-disclosure among players of MMOGs. Yee characterizes "social" players as motivated by relationships and teamwork, while "achievement" players are considered their antithesis, valuing progress, optimization and domination.
Guadagno found that "achievement" players were less likely to trust and cooperate with other players, while "social" players exhibited higher levels of self-disclosure. Her study further demonstrated that players are more trusting of other players who are part of their guild—a group of players who share a common chat channel, group identifier and play together regularly, relative to players who belong to other guilds or are not in a guild.
The pilot study drew from a pool of 37 participants who were first asked to complete the Online Gaming Motivations Scale—developed by Yee and a team of researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center—to determine their motivation type. Participants also were assessed based on their willingness to share information, items and personal details with other players as a function of their group membership.
Guadagno said future research will consider factors such as inclination to attack others in understanding how and why people trust and disclose information to people they only know through the computer screen.
"Social science research has long demonstrated that there is often a disconnect between the way people report their past behavior and what an outside observer might report," she said. "This is in part because people do not always understand why they behave a certain way and in part because of biases in the way we interpret and report on our past behavior. Essentially, people want to look good in the eyes of others. Together, this makes it difficult to be 100 percent certain that self-reported behavior is accurate. So assessing real gameplay in the future will allow my research team to record events as they take place and this will result in more confidence in our findings."
The research was presented at the 16th annual meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers in Phoenix.