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Research has identified various cognitive risk and protective (CRP) factors that contribute to gaming disorder (GD), but it remains unclear how GD symptoms are differentially related to specific CRP factors. To fill the gap, this study used network analysis to identify the most central components in the connections between CRP factors and GD symptoms, shedding light on the most important factors for the development and maintenance of GD. The participants of this study were 3002 adult online gamers (49.8% men, mean age = 36.3 years). Two unregularized Gaussian graphical models were estimated, one that only included GD symptoms and another that included both GD symptoms and CRP factors. The findings showed that “cognitive flexibility”, “gaming self-esteem”, and “loss of control” were the most central cognitive protective factor, cognitive risk factor, and GD symptom, respectively. Moreover, the GD symptom of “escape”, the cognitive risk factor of “loss sensitivity”, and the cognitive protective factor of “cognitive flexibility” were most prominent in bridging different constructs, reflecting two mechanistic clusters of GD: escapism and reward-seeking. The findings further revealed that the cognitive risk factor of “maladaptive gaming cognition” was closely connected to GD symptoms, indicating its influential role as a harmful mechanism underlying GD. Overall, our network analysis indicates that having secure self-beliefs and situation-based flexibility may be crucial for healthy gaming.

Original publication




Journal article


Computers in Human Behavior

Publication Date