The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize addictions to new technologies such as the Internet or video games, because as their spokesperson put it, "The data is unreliable." However, two new studies, one from the University of Chicago and the other from Adelphi University in New York, presents some compelling new evidence that high-tech devices are just as addictive as certain substances.
In the first study, researchers led by Professor Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that people were better able to control their desires to drink or smoke then to control their urges to check their media social network accounts.
The researchers asked 200 participants ages 18 to 85 years old to respond to texts sent to them on Blackberry phones seven times a day for 14 hours a week. The team would text participants, and ask if they had experienced an urge to do something within the last half hour, to describe how strong the urge was, and to indicate whether it conflicted with other things they needed to do. By the end of the study, they had collected over 17,000 responses.
The desire to sleep and relax proved to be the most difficult to resist, especially as any given day wore on. One surprising finding was that participants could resist the urge to smoke or drink, but not to check their social media networks.
"People were relatively successful at resisting sports inclinations, sexual urges, and spending impulses, which seems surprising giving the salience in modern culture of disastrous failures to control sexual impulses and urges to spend money," Dr. Hofmann explained. The participants could resist the urge to smoke or drink, but not to check their social media networks.
"With cigarettes and alcohol beer are more costs, long-term as well as monetary," Dr. Hofmann said. "The opportunity may not always be the right one. So even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may still ‘steal’ a lot of people’s time."
This study appears in the journal Psychological Science.
The second study focused on whether certain kinds of video games are more addictive than others. Luther Elliott, Andrew Golub, Eloise Dunlap and Geoffrey Ream of Adelphi University studied 3380 adults over age 18 years old who reported playing video games for at least an hour during the past week. The research team sorted the participants in terms of the kind of games they played: multiplayer, action adventure, first person shooter, sports, gambling, and so forth. They found that only five percent reported extreme problem gaming, and these participants were more likely to play first-person shooting, action adventure, role-playing, and gambling games. The most common titles were Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, and poker.
"Recent sales figures for blockbuster series such as Call of Duty and Halo indicate a huge audience for the first person shooter genre in America," according to their report. "Our findings suggest that a considerable subpopulation is experiencing at least moderate degrees of problem video game playing."
Ironically, this study appeared the same week that a Chinese student lay dead for nine hours in an Internet cafe where young people play video games. Twenty-three year old Chen Rong-Yu apparently suffered a heart attack after playing the game "League of Legends" for 23 hours at a café in New Taipei. There were at least 30 other players around him so engrossed in the marathon gaming session that they never noticed his body. League of Legends is classified as a real time strategy wargame.