Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 315–329 | Cite as

On Finding the C in CBT: The Challenges of Applying Gambling-Related Cognitive Approaches to Video-Gaming

  • Paul Delfabbro
  • Daniel King
Original Paper


Many similarities have been drawn between the activities of gambling and video-gaming. Both are repetitive activities with intermittent reinforcement, decision-making opportunities, and elements of risk-taking. As a result, it might be tempting to believe that cognitive strategies that are used to treat problem gambling might also be applied to problematic video gaming. In this paper, we argue that many cognitive approaches to gambling that typically involve a focus on erroneous beliefs about probabilities and randomness are not readily applicable to video gaming. Instead, we encourage a focus on other clusters of cognitions that relate to: (a) the salience and over-valuing of gaming rewards, experiences, and identities, (b) maladaptive and inflexible rules about behaviour, (c) the use of video-gaming to maintain self-esteem, and (d) video-gaming for social status and recognition. This theoretical discussion is advanced as a starting point for the development of more refined cognitive treatment approaches for problematic video gaming.


Problem gambling Video-gaming addiction Internet gaming disorder Cognition Cognitive-behavior therapy 



This work received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper.


  1. Augoustinos, M., Walker, I., & Doanghue, N. (2006). Social cognition: An integrated introduction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, A. T. (1997). Cognitive models of depression. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 1, 5–37.Google Scholar
  4. Brockner, J., Shaw, M. C., & Rubin, J. Z. (1979). Factors affecting withdrawal from an escalating conflict: Quitting before it’s too late. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 15, 492–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caplan, S. E. (2010). Theory and measurement of generalised problematic Internet use: A two-step approach. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 1089–1097. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2010.03.012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caplan, S., Williams, D., & Yee, N. (2009). Problematic Internet use and psycho-social wellbeing among MMO players. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1312–1319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Charlton, J. P. (2002). A factor-analytic investigation of computer ‘addiction’ and engagement. British Journal of Psychology, 93, 329–344.Google Scholar
  8. Charlton, J. P., & Danforth, I. D. W. (2007). Distinguishing addiction and high engagement in the context of online game playing. Computers in Human Behaviour, 23, 1531–1548.Google Scholar
  9. Coventry, K. R., & Norman, A. C. (1998). Arousal, erroneous verbalisations, and the illusion of control during a computer-generated gambling task. British Journal of Psychology, 89, 629–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Delfabbro, P. (2004). The stubborn logic of regular gamblers: obstacles and dilemmas in cognitive gambling research. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20, 1–21.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Delfabbro, P. H., & Winefield, A. H. (2000). Predictors of irrational thinking in regular slot machine gamblers. The Journal of Psychology, 134, 117–128.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Dickerson, M. G., Hinchy, J., Legg-England, S., Fabre, J., & Cunningham, R. (1992). On the determinants of persistent gambling behaviour. I. High-frequency poker machine players. British Journal of Psychology, 83, 237–248.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Dixon, M. R. (2000). Manipulating the illusion of control: Variations in gambling as a function of perceived control over chance outcomes. Psychological Record, 50, 705–719.Google Scholar
  14. Ducheneaut, N., Yee, N., Nickell, E., & Moore, R. J. (2006). Building an MMO with mass appeal. Games and Culture, 1, 281–317.Google Scholar
  15. Dugas, M. J., Gosselin, P., & Ladouceur, R. (2001). Intolerance of uncertainty and worry: Investigating narrow specificity in a nonclinical sample. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 551–558.Google Scholar
  16. Dugas, M. J., Schwartz, A., & Francis, K. (2004). Intolerance of uncertainty, worry, and depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28, 835–842.Google Scholar
  17. Durkin, K., & Barber, B. (1995). Not so doomed: Computer game play and positive adolescent development. Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 373–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ejova, A., Delfabbro, P. H., & Navarro, D. J. (2010). The illusion of control: structure, measurement and dependence on reinforcement frequency in the context of a laboratory gambling task. In W. Christensen, E. Schier, & J. Sutton (Eds). Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science (pp. 84-92). Sydney: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science.Google Scholar
  19. Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. New York: Lyle Stuart.Google Scholar
  20. Ferguson, C. J., Coulson, M., & Barnett, J. (2011). A meta-analysis of pathological gaming prevalence and comorbidity with mental health, academic and social problems. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 45, 1573–1578.Google Scholar
  21. Fisher, S. (1994). Identifying video game addiction in children and adolescents. Addictive Behaviors, 19, 545–553.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Floros, G., & Siomos, K. (2012). Patterns of choices on video game genres and Internet addiction. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 417–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fortune, E. E., & Goodie, A. S. (2012). Cognitive distortions as a component and treatment focus of pathological gambling: A review. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 26, 298–310.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Gaboury, A., & Ladouceur, R. (1988). Irrational thinking and gambling. In W. R. Eadington (Ed.), Gambling research: Proceedings of the seventh international conference on gambling and risk taking. Reno: University of Nevada.Google Scholar
  25. Gentile, D. A., Choo, H., Liau, A., Sim, T., Li, D., Fung, D., et al. (2011). Pathological video game use among youths: A two-year longitudinal study. Paediatrics, 127, e319–e329.Google Scholar
  26. Gilovich, T. (1983). Biased evaluation and persistence in gambling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 1110–1126.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Gilovich, T., & Douglas, C. (1986). Biased evaluations of randomly determined gambling outcomes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 22, 228–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Griffiths, M. D. (1990). The cognitive psychology of gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 6, 31–42.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Griffiths, M. D. (1991). Amusement machine playing in childhood and adolescence: A comparative analysis of video games and fruit machines. Journal of Adolescence, 14, 53–73.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Griffiths, M. D. (1994). The role of cognitive bias and skill in fruit machine gambling. British Journal of Psychology, 85, 351–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Griffiths, M. D., Davies, M. N. O., & Chappell, D. (2004). Online computer gaming: A comparison of adolescent and adult gamers. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 87–96.Google Scholar
  32. Jacobs, D. F. (1986). A general theory of addictions: A new theoretical model. Journal of Gambling Behavior, 2, 15–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jefferson, S., & Nicki, R. (2003). A new instrument to measure cognitive distortions in video lottery terminal users: the Informational Biases Scale (IBS). Journal of Gambling Studies, 19, 387–403.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Joukhador, J., Blaszczynski, A. P., & Maccallum, F. (2004). Superstitious beliefs in gambling among problem and non-problem gamblers: Preliminary data. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20, 171–180.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  36. Kim, S. M., Han, D. H., Lee, Y. S., & Renshaw, P. F. (2012). Combined cognitive behavioral therapy and bupropion for the treatment of problematic on-line game play in adolescents with major depressive disorder. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 1954–1959.Google Scholar
  37. King, D. L., & Delfabbro, P. H. (2013). Issues for DSM-5: Video-gaming disorder? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 47, 20–22.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2009). The psychological study of video game players: Methodological challenges and practical advice. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 7, 555–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2010a). Cognitive behavioral therapy for problematic video game players: Conceptual considerations and practice issues. Journal of Cybertherapy and Rehabilitation, 3, 261–273.Google Scholar
  40. King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2010b). Video game structural characteristics: A new psychological taxonomy. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 90–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012a). Clinical interventions for technology-based problems: Excessive Internet and video game use. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 26, 43–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., Griffiths, M. D., & Gradisar, M. (2011). Assessing clinical trials of Internet addiction treatment: A systematic review and CONSORT evaluation. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 1110–1116.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., Griffiths, M. D., & Gradisar, M. (2012b). Cognitive-behavioral approaches to outpatient treatment of Internet addiction in children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68, 1185–1195.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., Zwaans, T., & Kaptsis, D. (2013a). Clinical features and Axis I comorbidity of Australian adolescent pathological Internet and video-game users. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 47, 1058–1067.Google Scholar
  45. King, D. L., Gradisar, M., Drummond, A., Lovato, N., Wessel, J., Micic, G., et al. (2013b). The impact of prolonged violent video-gaming on adolescent sleep: An experimental study. Journal of Sleep Research, 22, 137–143.Google Scholar
  46. King, D. L., Haagsma, M. C., Delfabbro, P. H., Gradisar, M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013c). Toward a consensus definition of pathological video-gaming: A systematic review of psychometric assessment tools. Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 331–342.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Kneer, J., & Glock, S. (2013). Escaping in digital games: The relationship between playing motives and addictive tendencies in males. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1415–1420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kouimtsidis, C., Reynolds, M., Drummond, C., Davis, P., & Tarrier, N. (2007). Cognitive-behavioural therapy in the treatment of addiction. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  49. Ladouceur, R., & Mayrand, M. (1984). Evaluation of the ‘illusion of control’: type of feedback, outcome sequence, and number of trials amongst regular and occasional gamblers. Journal of Psychology, 117, 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ladouceur, R., & Sylvain, C. (1999). Treatment of pathological gambling: A controlled study. Anuario de Psicologia, 30, 127–135.Google Scholar
  51. Ladouceur, R., Sylvain, C., Boutin, C., Lachance, S., Doucet, C., & Leblond, J. (2003). Group therapy for pathological gamblers: A cognitive approach. Behavior Research and Therapy, 41, 587–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lesieur, H. R. (1984). The chase: Career of the compulsive gambler (2nd ed.). Rochester, VT: Schenkman Books Inc.Google Scholar
  53. Lewis, M. L., Weber, R., & Bowman, N. D. (2008). “They may be pixels, but they’re MY pixels”: Developing a metric of character attachment in role-playing video-games. Cyberpsychology and Behavior, 11, 515–518.Google Scholar
  54. Loftus, G. A., & Loftus, E. F. (1983). Mind at play: The psychology of video games. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  55. Lortie, C. L., & Guitton, M. J. (2013). Internet addiction assessment tools: Dimensional structure and methodological status. Addiction, 108, 1207–1216.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Mentzoni, R. A., Brunborg, G. S., Molde, H., Myrseth, H., Skouverøe, K. J. M., Hetland, J., et al. (2011). Problematic video game use: Estimated prevalence and associations with mental and physical health. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14, 591–596.Google Scholar
  57. O’Connor, J., & Dickerson, M. G. (2003). Impaired control over gambling in gaming machine and off-course gamblers. Addiction, 98, 53–60.Google Scholar
  58. Petry, N. M. (2005). Gamblers anonymous and cognitive-behavioral therapies for pathological gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21, 27–33.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Raylu, N., & Oei, T. P. S. (2004). The Gambling Related Cognitions Scale (GRCS): Development, confirmatory factor validation and psychometric properties. Addiction, 99, 757–769.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Rubin, J. Z., & Brockner, J. (1975). Factors affecting entrapment in waiting situation: The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 1054–1063.Google Scholar
  61. Sevigny, S., & Ladouceur, R. (2004). Gamblers irrational thinking about chance events: The “double switching” concept. International Gambling Studies, 3, 163–170.Google Scholar
  62. Smyth, J. M. (2007). Beyond self-selection in video game play: An experimental examination of the consequences of massively multiplayer online role-playing game play. Cyberpsychology and Behavior, 10, 717–721.Google Scholar
  63. Steenbergh, T. A., Meyers, A. W., May, R. K., & Whelan, J. P. (2002). Development and validation of the Gambers’Beliefs Questionnaire. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 16, 143–149.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Tarrier, N. (2011). Case formulation in cognitive behaviour therapy: The treatment of challenging and complex cases. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  65. Tolin, D. F., Abramowitz, J. S., Brigidi, B. D., & Foa, E. B. (2003). Intolerance of uncertainty in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 17, 233–242.Google Scholar
  66. Toneatto, T., & Millar, M. (2004). Assessing and treating problem gambling: empirical status and promising trends. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 29, 517–525.Google Scholar
  67. Toplak, M. E., Liu, E., Macpherson, R., Toneatto, T., & Stanovich, K. E. (2007). The reasoning skills and thinking dispositions of problem gamblers: A dual-process taxonomy. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 20, 103–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wagenaar, W. A. (1988). Paradoxes of gambling behaviour. England: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  69. Walker, M. B. (1992a). The psychology of gambling. Sydney: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  70. Walker, M. B. (1992b). Irrational thinking among slot machine players. Journal of Gambling Studies, 8, 245–288.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Williams, K. D., Cheung, C., & Choi, W. (2000). Cyberostracism: Effects of being ignored over the internet. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 748–762.Google Scholar
  72. Williams, K. D., Govan, C., Croker, V., Tyan, D., Cruickshank, M., & Lam, A. (2002). Investigations into differences between social- and cyberostracism. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, 6, 65–77.Google Scholar
  73. Winkler, A., Dörsing, B., Rief, W., Shen, Y., & Glombiewski, J. A. (2013). Treatment of Internet addiction: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 317–329.Google Scholar
  74. Wohl, M. J. A., & Enzle, M. E. (2002). The deployment of personal luck: Illusory control in games of pure chance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1388–1397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wood, W. S., & Clapham, M. M. (2005). Development of the drake beliefs about chance inventory. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21, 411–430.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. Zhong, Z., & Yao, M. Z. (2012). Gaming motivations, avatar-self identification and symptoms of online game addiction. Asian Journal of Communication, 23, 555–573.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations