“In the Mood to Game”: Selective exposure and mood management processes in computer game play

Nicholas D. Bowman, Ron Tamborini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Previous research shows that the influence of a computer game’s task demand on the mood-repair capacity of game play follows a quadratic trend: mood repair increases as task demand goes from low to moderate levels, after which further increases in demand reduce repair. Applying selective exposure logic to this finding, we reasoned that familiarity with games known to vary in task demand should influence game choice among users experiencing negative moods. To test this, a 2 × 3 experiment was conducted, varying induced participant mood (boredom, stress) and computer game task demand (low, moderate, or high). Findings revealed a curvilinear association between task demand and game choice replicating the association between task demand and mood repair in previous research. Participants preferred moderate task demand over high and low task demand, and this preference was stronger for stressed participants. In addition and in line with mood management theory, resultant mood repair was greatest for stressed individuals choosing moderate demand, and bored individuals choosing high demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-393
Number of pages19
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 17 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Computer games
  • intervention potential
  • learned expectations
  • mood management
  • selective exposure
  • task demand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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