Female Nightmare Protection as a Function of Sex Role Identity and Sex of Experimenter

  • Kendall Zielke MacEwan University
  • Justin Haylin MacEwan University


Previous research has shown that video-gamer's dreams are associated with less threatening content but also that they often do not consider such dreams to be nightmares, or find them to be scary. It is likely that gamers who play combat-centric action-type video games practice quick reactions that allow them to develop defensive maneuvers, so that when the gamer experiences a chase-type threat in a dream, it is empowering instead of intimidating. The nightmare protection effect has been demonstrated in several correlational and experimental studies, using military-personal and university-age males as participants. With female gamers, the effect is more likely to be present in those that play combat games with high frequency and who identify as more masculine in their sex-role identity. Addressing the limitations of a previous experiment with male-gamers, current and ongoing research is experimentally investigating the nightmare protection effect in university women, as a replication and extension. The current study has two independent variables (computer use and sex of experimenter). The computer use conditions are combat video game play and computer scholarly search task, which serves as a control condition. All research participants are exposed to a frightening film clip and are randomly assigned to play a first-person shooter combat-centric action video game or perform an online computer search task. They are randomly assigned to either a male or female experimenter. We hypothesized that participants playing an action first-person perspective video game, and who identify as more masculine in their sex-role identity, will experience the nightmare protection effect.

Discipline: Psychology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jayne Gackenbach