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04 декабря 2018, 02:53

Study: College Students Choose Smartphones Over Food

Stay on target

Would you rather relinquish use of your smartphone or access to food?

For college students, the answer is a no-brainer.

University at Buffalo researchers found that undergraduates prefer food deprivation over smartphone denial.

This is, by no means, a revelation.

Generation Z (aka post-Millennials) are the first cohort born into an Internet-savvy world. Many modern kids start carrying a smartphone before they enter middle school, and don’t remember life before Snapchat and emojis.

But UB’s study, conducted by clinical psychology doctoral student Sara O’Donnell and professor Leonard Epstein, pioneers the idea that handsets are “reinforcing.”

O’Donnell was particularly interested in whether smartphones could function as a reinforcing behavior (a stimulus that strengthens or increases the probability of a specific response), in the same way food, drugs, and alcohol do.

“The frequency with which we use our cellphones every day is astounding,” she said, citing estimates ranging from five to nine hours a day.

During the experiment, 76 UB students, ages 18 to 22, were allowed to study or read newspapers during the two- and three-hour periods sans smartphone or food, respectively.

Afterwards, participants could use use a computer task to earn time with their smartphone or 100-calorie servings of a favorite snack. As rewards were earned, the amount of work increased.

“We … found that when deprived of both food and smartphones, students were much more motivated to work for time to use their smartphone, and were willing to part with more hypothetical money to gain access to their phone,” according to O’Donnell.

The scientists measured smartphone reinforcement in two ways:

  • A hypothetical questionnaire asking how many minutes of device use an individual would purchase at increasing prices (from $0 per minute to $1,120 per minute)
  • A behavioral index of reinforcement measuring the amount of work (i.e. the number of mouse clicks) an individual would expend to use their phone, where the amount of clicks needed increases over time

The more hypothetical money and work the students were willing to spend to be able to use their smartphones reflected a higher reinforcing value.

“We were very surprised by the results,” O’Donnell said, admitting that while they knew students “would be motivated to gain access to their phones,” they didn’t expect smartphone reinforcement to so far outweigh food.

“Research is just beginning to investigate the possibility that smartphone addiction exists,” she continued. “While reinforcing value does not equate to addiction, it seems likely that if smartphone addiction becomes a valid diagnosis, those individuals would have high smartphone reinforcement, just as individuals with alcohol use disorders have high alcohol reinforcement.”

Results of the study were published in the journal Addictive Behaviors .

More coverage on Geek.com:

Source: https://www.geek.com/tech/study-college-students-choose-smartphones-over-food-1763856/?source=news