Is mobile use addictive?

Posted on December 18, 2011  /  0 Comments

The way most governments tax mobile use, the answer would seem to be yes. It is treated like cigarettes, a demerit good that imposes negative externalities on society; and is thus subject to additional taxes. The research reported below examined the question of whether mobile use is addictive (albeit in a different context, that of mobile use while driving) and found that no, it was not addictive:

Paul Atchley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, conducted research this year and last to determine whether young adults had enough self-control to postpone responding to a text message if they were offered a reward to do so. The idea was to determine whether the lure of the device was so compelling that it would override a larger reward.

The research found that young adults would postpone the text. Dr. Atchley concluded that the phone, while not classically addictive, nevertheless has a powerful draw, in part because it delivers information that often becomes less valuable with each passing minute.

“What looks like an addiction, in my opinion, based on this data, is a reflection of the fact that information loses value over time very rapidly,” he said. “If people can make choices, it’s not addiction.”

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