Disentangling the effects of empathy components on Internet gaming disorder: A study of vulnerable youth in China (2019)

J Behav Addict. 2019 Mar 28:1-9. doi: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.12.

Hui BPH1, S Wu AM2, Pun N1.



Previous research shows that empathy can be one of the potential protective factors for Internet gaming disorder (IGD), yet the complex relationships between multidimensional factors of empathy and IGD remain understudied. Thus, a major question moving forward is to resolve the mixed empirical data by examining the specific contributions of empathy components. In this study, we disentangle the effects of cognitive component (i.e., perspective taking) and affective component (i.e., empathic concern and personal distress) on IGD symptoms and propose affect-oriented mediation pathways between them.


We surveyed a large sample (N = 3,348) of Chinese vocational school students, one of the most vulnerable groups to online gaming addiction.


Our structural equation modeling results revealed that only personal distress, but not empathic concern or perspective taking, positively predicted IGD symptoms. However, empathic concern and personal distress were negatively and positively predicted gaming motive of escape from reality, respectively, which in turn predicted IGD symptoms. Furthermore, we found an indirect effect of perspective taking on IGD through empathic concern and then gaming motive of escape from reality.


The findings underscore the importance of separating the affective and cognitive components to understand the complex relationships between the empathy and IGD, and support our theorizing of the affect-oriented mediation mechanism.

KEYWORDS:  IGD; empathy; escape from reality; gaming addiction; youth

PMID: 30920294

DOI: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.12