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Investigating the modulation of cognition and event-related potentials relating to visual attention, working memory, and executive control in habitual videogame players

Spence, Alexander James


Alexander James Spence


William J. (William Jonathan) McGeown

Paul A. Skarratt

Paul N. Wilson


The overall objective of this thesis was to produce a document that investigated whether habitual videogame playing modulated cognitive processes related to visual processing and where in the processing stream these modulations occur. In this thesis, the term ‘cognitive modulation’ refers to any neurological differences (as identified through ERP) between videogame players and non-videogame players that theoretically may have been a result of videogame playing. Using this method, I am able to ascertain whether differences between the two groups are observed in early sensory ERPs, in which case VGPs might possess an advantage in bottom-up visual processing, later selective attention which might indicate alterations in top-down attentional processing, motor-response waveforms that may indicate difference in stimulus response mappings, and finally any differences in working memory capacity that might be the underlying cause of supposed attentional differences. An example of cognitive modulation was observed by Wu et al., (2012) and discussed in more detail in the introduction of this thesis. Indeed these modulations should also be accompanied by a behavioural difference between the two groups. As ERP was the primary source of neurophysiological recordings in this thesis, modulations could occur in the amplitude, mean activity, or peak latency of ERP waveforms.

The paradigms employed in this thesis were chosen and designed so that in combination they provide a measure of potential cognitive modulation across the entire processing stream. That is, from early sensory ERPs, through selective attentional ERPs, including executive control ERPs and concluding at ERPs related to motor response priming. As these studies primarily focused on attentional processes, an ERP chapter towards the end of this thesis was included to identify whether any modulations in attentional ERPs were an indirect result of modulated working memory.

Chapters 2 and 3 in this thesis focus on attentional control, resources, and the inhibitory processes of attention. Specifically, these chapters related to the attentional control each group employed when being presented with distracting items. Indeed, I observed modulated cognitive processes in chapter 3 related inhibitory processing in both attention and executive control related processes. In addition to this, the flanker task in Chapter 3 also allowed me to measure and modulation in motor priming between videogame players and non-videogame players.

Chapters 4 and 5 looked more closely at ERPs related to selective attention such as the N2pc and P3, alongside early sensory ERPs (N1, P1, etc.). In response to observing differences in how each group processed distractors (related to the N2pc in Chapter 4), Chapter 5 employed a very specific test in order to split the N2pc into its component parts to further investigate whether any cognitive modulation between groups was a result of altered priority on processing targets or inhibiting distractors.

Chapter 6 in this thesis sought to identify whether any differences observed in the attentional processing stream was actually the result of modulations in working memory, a cognitive process theoretically closely related to selective attention. Chapter 6 measured the contralateral delay activity, a neurological waveform that correlates with items held in visual working memory.

Chapter 7 provided further exploratory psychophysical testing to identify whether any potential behavioural between-group differences extend beyond the usual visual field our groups would play videogames in. This involved testing the crowding phenomenon whereby participants are unable to identify a stimulus when closely flanked by distractors.

This these concludes with Chapter 8, an overall discussion of each chapters results and how these theoretically synthesise with one another in relation to the two objectives of this thesis; does videogame playing modulate cognitive, and where in the attentional processing stream does this occur.


Spence, A. J. (2016). Investigating the modulation of cognition and event-related potentials relating to visual attention, working memory, and executive control in habitual videogame players. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 16, 2017
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Psychology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Award Date Apr 1, 2016


Thesis (1.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2016 Spence, Alexander James. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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