• Constructing and negotiating boundaries of morally acceptable alcohol use: A discursive psychology of justifying alcohol consumption

      Melia, Claire; Kent, Alexandra; Meredith, Joanne; Lamont, Alexandra (Elsevier, 2021-07-20)
      UK society has a complex relationship with alcohol; it is ever-present within social activities, yet alcohol problems are heavily stigmatised. As such, the nuance of acceptability is a key focus for understanding societal perceptions and understandings of alcohol. This research explored how the boundary between acceptable and problematic alcohol use was negotiated in justifying drinking behaviors. The paper draws upon data from two World Cafés and five focus groups conducted in the UK with 76 participants including 25 males and 51 females aged 18 to 82. Data was analysed using discursive psychology with a focus on how participants disclosed and accounted for alcohol consumption. The analysis highlighted two key discursive patterns: 1) Speakers created an interactionally-specific boundary of acceptable alcohol use. 2) Speakers built upon this boundary, justifying and portraying their own drinking as socially acceptable. The boundary of acceptable alcohol use was locally constructed and shifted between speakers and contexts. This locally occasioned boundary demonstrates the challenge of objective guidance - such as the UK Chief Medical Officer’s unit guidelines - in relation to individualistic behaviors. Implications are discussed for how alcohol policy, health campaigns, and alcohol practitioners may consider this orientation to justifying drinking behaviors to make alcohol reduction efforts more effective.
    • Loot boxes and problem gambling: Investigating the “gateway hypothesis”

      Spicer, Stuart Gordon; Fullwood, Chris; Close, James; Nicklin, Laura Louise; Lloyd, Joanne; Lloyd, Helen; Cyberpsychology Research Group, School of Psychology, Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton WV1, 1LY, UK; Community and Primary Care Research Group (CPCRG), University of Plymouth, Plymouth Science Park, Derriford, Plymouth PL6 8BX, UK. Electronic address: stuart.spicer@plymouth.ac.uk. (Elsevier BV, 2022-04-06)
      Loot boxes are purchasable items in video games with a chance-based outcome. They have attracted substantial attention from academics and legislators over recent years, partly because of associations between loot box engagement and problem gambling. Some researchers have suggested that loot boxes may act as a gateway into subsequent gambling and/or problem gambling. However, such “gateway effects” have not been formally investigated. Using a survey of 1102 individuals who both purchase loot boxes and gamble, we found that 19.87% of the sample self-reported either “gateway effects” (loot boxes causally influencing subsequent gambling) or “reverse gateway effects” (gambling causally influencing subsequent loot box engagement). Both subsets of participants had higher scores for problem gambling, problem video gaming, gambling-related cognitions, risky loot boxes engagement, and impulsivity. These individuals also had a tendency for higher loot box and gambling spend; suggesting that potential gateway effects are related to measurable risks and harms. Moreover, the majority of participants reporting gateway effects were under 18 when they first purchased loot boxes. Content analysis of free text responses revealed several reasons for self-reported gateway effects, the most frequent of which were sensation-seeking, normalisation of gambling-like behaviours, and the addictive nature of both activities. Whilst the cross-sectional nature of our findings cannot conclusively establish directions of causality, thus highlighting the need for longitudinal research, we conclude that there is a case for legislation on loot boxes for harm minimisation purposes.
    • Prevalence of internet addiction and its association with stressful life events and psychological symptoms among adolescent internet users

      Tang, Jie; Yu, Yizhen; Du, Yukai; Ma, Ying; Zhang, Dongying; Wang, Jiaji (Elsevier BV, 2013-12-18)
      Internet addiction (IA) among adolescents is a serious public health problem around the world. However, there have been few studies that examine the association between IA and stressful life events and psychological symptoms among Chinese adolescent internet users. We examined the association between IA and stressful life events and psychological symptoms among a random sample of school students who were internet users (N = 755) in Wuhan, China. Internet addiction, stressful life events, coping style and psychological symptoms were measured by self-rated scales. The prevalence rate of internet addiction was 6.0% among adolescent internet users. Logistic regression analyses indicated that stressors from interpersonal problem and school related problem and anxiety symptoms were significantly associated with IA after controlling for demographic characteristics. Analyses examining the coping style with the IA revealed that negative coping style may mediate the effects of stressful life events to increase the risk of IA. However, no significant interaction of stressful life events and psychological symptoms was found. These findings of the current study indicate a high prevalence of internet addiction among Chinese adolescent internet users and highlight the importance of stressors from interpersonal problem and school related problem as a risk factor for IA which mainly mediated through negative coping style.
    • Secondary analysis of loot box data: are high-spending “whales” wealthy gamers or problem gamblers?

      Close, James; Gordon Spicer, Stuart; Louise Nicklin, Laura; Uther, Maria; Lloyd, Joanne; Lloyd, Helen (Elsevier, 2021-02-03)
      Introduction Loot boxes are purchasable randomised reward mechanisms in video games. Due to structural and psychological similarities with gambling, there are fears that loot box purchasing may be associated with problematic gambling. Whilst monthly expenditure is typically modest (i.e. < $20), the distribution is highly skewed, with a small number of high-level spenders, sometimes referred to as “whales”. It is not known what proportion of industry profits are derived from such players, and whether they are typically wealthy individuals and/or problem gamblers. Methods We used structured literature searches to identify surveys of gamers with open-access loot box data. The resulting datasets were aggregated, and correlations between loot box expenditure, problem gambling and earnings investigated using Spearman’s rho correlations. Results The combined open-access data comprised 7,767 loot box purchasers (5,933 with self-report earnings). Secondary analysis of this self-report data confirmed that disproportionate revenue appears to be generated from high-level spenders: the top 5% of spenders (> $100/month) represent half of loot box revenue. Previously reported correlations between problem gambling and loot box expenditure were confirmed, with an aggregate correlation of ρ = 0.34, p < .001. In contrast, there was no significant correlation between loot box spend and earnings ρ = 0.02, p = .10. Conclusion Our secondary analysis suggests that games developers (unwittingly or not) are disproportionately profiting from moderate and high-risk gamblers, rather than high earning customers. Such patterns of spending mirror those observed with gambling revenues, and have implications for harm minimisation and ongoing policy debates around loot boxes.