In the past two decades computers have become an important part of many peoples' lives, both at home and work. For much of this time work has been ongoing at Bolton which aims to further knowledge about how people's attitudes and behaviours concerning computers vary, and to develop psychometric instruments to measure these concepts.

Computing-related engagement and addictions

This work stemmed from John's PhD studies of the educational performance of computing students. The Computer Apathy and Anxiety scale was developed| which included measures of computer apathy - engagement (a continuum running from apathy towards computers at one end to non-pathological but highly positive attitudes towards computers at the other end) and computer anxiety. Using this scale it was shown that computer engagement was a predictor of computing students' performance on higher education courses and that students on programming-orientated courses were more highly computer engaged than students on business-orientated courses.

With the rise of the internet and the increasing use of computer games, the idea that some people might be developing behavioural addictions became prominent, and many studies began appearing which studied these phenomena. However, some of these studies appeared to confuse symptoms that appear to signal mere high engagement with those that genuinely signalled addiction, and the possibility that the prevalence of computing-related addictions was being over-estimated arose. To investigate these possibilities, a factor analytic study was performed| and this confirmed these ideas with respect to computing in general Subsequent studies have suggested that people who might be at risk of addiction to activities such as the playing of MMORPGs may be characterized by Asperger's syndrome-like personality traits.

Computing control motivations and perceptions

The concept of desire for control might be useful in accounting for both individual differences in tendencies to become behaviourally addicted to certain computing activities, and in researching computer-related anger. Since it is generally recognised that specific psychometric measures are better predictors than more general predictors it was necessary to design such a measure. It was also considered possible that computing locus of control (i.e. control perceptions) might be an important individual difference variable in explaining computer-related anger.

An important conclusion of this work was that it may be difficult to construct a computing-specific measure of locus of control because generally the vast majority of people believe that in principle outcomes of interactions with computers are within their control (i.e. people have an internal locus of control with respect to such outcomes), assuming that they have the required knowledge.

Computing anger and ethopoeic perceptions of computers

Recent studies at Bolton have begun to focus on computing anger. Although, anecdotally, anger when computing is a common phenomenon, there is surprisingly little research. Our work in this area, conducted with Arvid Kappas of Jacobs University Bremen, has compared computing anger with (the more commonly researched) driving anger. This work has shown that computing anger is almost as common as driving anger.

Ethopoeia (from the Greek ethos meaning character, and poeia meaning representation) is the term that has been used to describe the notion that while people often respond to computers as though they were human, people realise that computers do not merit such responses. We aim to use the short instrument that we have developed to investigate the extent to which ethopoeic perceptions of computers are involved in both the differential attribution of blame to computers for anger inducing computing incidents and the degree to which the anger resulting from such incidents causes overt expression of anger towards computers.

For further details of these studies please see the UBCCRU publications.