Biofeedback vs. video games: effects on impulsivity, locus of control and self-concept with incarcerated juveniles

J Clin Psychol. 1985 Sep;41(5):698-706. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(198509)41:5<698::aid-jclp2270410520>;2-q.


Research has found hyperactivity, poor impulse control, impaired sustained attention and low self-concept to be behavioral deficits common to juvenile delinquents. Limited opportunities for exercising self-control while incarcerated may encourage helplessness. If biofeedback training enhances self-regulation skills, then perhaps these behaviors can be taught in confinement. A sample of 12 felonious juvenile residents (aged 15-18) from a highly restricted environment were assigned randomly to a biofeedback or video game group and trained for 10 half-hour sessions. Results indicated virtually no significant differences between biofeedback and video game training. However, pre and post differences for both groups combined demonstrated significant gains in impulsivity, EMG, and self-concept. Both groups rated themselves equally on self-control ability, regardless of training. Further comparisons between other institutionalized residents (N = 14) and staff counselors (N = 10) as non-treatment controls were made. On each measure, both training groups improved consistently and became more like their less restricted counterparts.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biofeedback, Psychology*
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / therapy
  • Internal-External Control
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology
  • Juvenile Delinquency / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Random Allocation
  • Self Concept
  • Skin Temperature