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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48961. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048961. Epub 2012 Nov 14.

Cognitive biases toward Internet game-related pictures and executive deficits in individuals with an Internet game addiction.

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Department of Psychology, Wuxi Mental Health Center of Nanjing Medical University, Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, China.



The cue-related go/no-go switching task provides an experimental approach to study individual's flexibility in changing situations. Because Internet addiction disorder (IAD) belongs to the compulsive-impulsive spectrum of disorders, it should present cognitive bias and executive functioning deficit characteristics of some of these types of disorders. Until now, no studies have been reported on cognitive bias and executive function involving mental flexibility and response inhibition in IAD.


A total of 46 subjects who met the criteria of the modified Young's Diagnostic Questionnaire for Internet addiction (YDQ) were recruited as an Internet game addiction (IGA) group, along with 46 healthy control individuals. All participants performed the Internet game-shifting task. Using hit rate, RT, d' and C as the dependent measures, a three-way ANOVA (group × target × condition) was performed. For hit rate, a significant effect of group, type of target and condition were found. The group-target interaction effect was significant. For RT, significant effects were revealed for group and type of target. The group-target interaction effect was significant. Comparisons of the means revealed that the slowing down of IGA relative to NIA was more pronounced when the target stimuli were neutral as opposed to Internet game-related pictures. In addition, the group-condition interaction effect was significant. For d', significant effects of group, type of target and condition were found. The group-target interaction effect was significant. For C, the type of target produced a significant effect. There was a positive correlation between the length of the addiction (number of years) and the severity of the cognitive bias.


IGA present cognitive biases towards information related to Internet gaming. These biases, as well as poor executive functioning skills (lower mental flexibility and response inhibition), might be responsible for Internet game addiction. The assessment of cognitive biases in IGA might provide a methodology for evaluation of therapeutic effects.

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