Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith (Co-Director), Dr. Holly Payne (Co-Director), Dr. Kumi Ishii

Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The purpose of this study was to expand our understanding of the utility of identification in the reduction of out-group derogation. Specifically, this research examined the extent to which individuals can be persuaded to identify with members of a perceived out-group, particularly through the use of online games. Spent is an online, point-and-click game that places users in the role of the working poor. Spent was used to test the potential of serious or prosocial games to increase players’ identification with a group of people who are often on the fringes of social acceptance. Specifically, this research (a) developed a new measurement of cause identification, the Identification with Perceived Out-Group Scale (IPOGS), (b) tested the validity and reliability of the IPOGS, and (c) examined the change in identification with America’s poor after playing the online game Spent.

Following a pilot test of the Identification with Perceived Out-Group Scale, 55 young adults (ages 18-35) were recruited to participate in a quasi-experiment. Initially, participants completed the IPOGS and then played the online game Spent. Upon completion of the game, participants took the IPOGS again. Participants were also asked questions about their game play experience and basic demographic information.

Results indicate that individuals who had lower levels of identification with America's poor had significantly higher levels of identification after playing the online game. The increase in identification was evidenced in a greater perception of common interests and values, greater affective attachment, and greater willingness to interact with the working poor after playing Spent. These findings suggest that nonprofit organizations may find online gaming beneficial when trying to cultivate identification with their causes, particularly among young adults.


Communication | Communication Technology and New Media | Organizational Communication