Facebook addiction is associated with impulsive decision-making, study finds

Preliminary research published in the journal Addiction Research & Theory has found evidence that Facebook addiction is related to impulsive decision-making.

The study of 75 students from a Midwestern university found that participants who scored higher on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale were more likely to display delay discounting.

Delay discounting is the tendency to take a smaller reward that is available immediately, rather than a larger reward that will be delivered in the future. In this case, the participants were asked whether they would prefer $70 now or $200 in two weeks.

Students who said they used Facebook in order to forget about personal problems, tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success, and used Facebook so much that it had a negative impact on their job/studies were more likely to prefer the immediate $70 over $200 later.

“Steep delay discounting, or a preference for smaller immediate rewards instead of investing in a larger payout in the future, has been an observed behavior across addictions,” the researchers wrote in their study. “This finding thus strengthens the proposition that [Facebook addiction] may share neurocognitive processes similar to other addictions.”

The study would benefit from a larger and more diverse sample of participants. However, the results are aligned with a previous study, which found that Facebook addiction was associated with increased impulsivity as measured with a go/no-go task.

“More advanced and better powered research on this topic is warranted. Although Facebook can be innocuous for many users, and even provides apparent benefit to users by maintaining social connections, for some persons, Facebook use may be problematic,” the researchers concluded.

The study, “Facebook addiction and impulsive decision-making“, was authored by Daniel Delaney, L. A. R. Stein, and Russell Gruber.