Interactive Experience and Identification as Predictors of Attributing Responsibility in Video Games

Nathan Walter, Yariv Tsfati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the effect of interactivity on the attribution of responsibility for the character's actions in a violent video game. Through an experiment, we tested the hypothesis that identification with the main character in Grand Theft Auto IV mediates the effect of interactivity on attributions of responsibility for the main character's antisocial behavior. Using the framework of the fundamental attribution error, we demonstrated that those who actually played the game, as opposed to those who simply watched someone else playing it, identified with the main character. In accordance with the theoretical expectation, those who played the game and came to identify with the main character attributed the responsibility for his actions to external factors such as "living in a violent society." By contrast, those who did not interact with the game attributed responsibility for the character's actions to his personality traits. These findings could be viewed as contrasting with psychological research suggesting that respondents should have distanced themselves from the violent protagonist rather than identifying with him, and with Iyengar's (1991) expectation that more personalized episodic framing would be associated with attributing responsibility to the protagonist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Media Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Yariv Tsfati (PhD, 2001, University of Pennsylvania) is Associate Professor and Chair at the Department of Communication, University of Haifa. His research focuses on trust in media, the third person effect, and campaign effects. His research was funded by the Israel Science Foundation, the German-Israel Foundation, and other institutes.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Hogrefe Publishing.


  • FAE
  • human-computer interaction
  • identification
  • interactivity
  • video games

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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