People who are addicted to playing computer games show some of the same personality traits as people with Aspergers syndrome.

This is the conclusion of Dr John Charlton of the University of Bolton and Ian Danforth of Whitman College, USA.

The researchers questioned 391 computer game players, 86 per cent of whom were male. They considered relationships between addiction, ‘high engagement’ and personality, and found that the closer the players got to addiction the more likely they were to display negative personality traits. And that as players showed more signs of addiction they were increasingly characterised by three personality traits that would normally be associated with Aspergers, a variety of high functioning autism. These were neuroticism, and lack of extroversion and agreeableness.

The researchers believe that these people are not classifiable as having Aspergers syndrome but share some of the same characteristics because they find it easier to empathise with computer systems than other people.

Dr Charlton said: “The thinking in the field is that there is a scale along which people, even those considered to be ‘normal’, can be placed upon. And that people such as engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists are nearer to the non-empathising, systematizing, end of the spectrum, with people with Aspergers syndrome even further along again."

“Our research supports the idea that people who are heavily involved in game playing may be nearer to autistic spectrum disorders than people who have no interest in gaming.”