The Development of Explicit and Implicit Game-Based Digital Behavioral Markers for the Assessment of Social Anxiety

Martin Johannes Dechant*, Julian Frommel, Regan Lee Mandryk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Social relationships are essential for humans; neglecting our social needs can reduce wellbeing or even lead to the development of more severe issues such as depression or substance dependency. Although essential, some individuals face major challenges in forming and maintaining social relationships due to the experience of social anxiety. The burden of social anxiety can be reduced through accessible assessment that leads to treatment. However, socially anxious individuals who seek help face many barriers stemming from geography, fear, or disparities in access to systems of care. But recent research suggested digital behavioral markers as a way to deliver cheap and easily accessible digital assessment for social anxiety: As earlier work shows, players with social anxiety show similar behaviors in virtual worlds as in the physical world, including tending to walk farther around other avatars and standing farther away from other avatars. The characteristics of the movement behavior in-game can be harnessed for the development of digital behavioral markers for the assessment of social anxiety. In this paper, we investigate whether implicit as well as explicit digital behavioral markers, proposed by prior work, for social anxiety can be used for predicting the level of social anxiety. We show that both, explicit and implicit digital behavioral markers can be harnessed for the assessment. Our findings provide further insights about how game-based digital behavioral markers can be used for the assessment of social anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Article number760850
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • assessment
  • behavioral markers
  • digital biomarkers
  • digital games
  • in-game movement
  • interpersonal distance
  • social anxiety

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