New framework could help online addicts reduce their usage

January 9, 2017
Isaac Vaghefi is an assistant professor of management information systems at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Credit: Binghamton University

Research has shown that internet addicts do not always feel guilty about their usage, and in many cases, they do not even perceive their usage as problematic. A new model developed by researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York could help addicts realize that their usage is a problem and reduce it.

Isaac Vaghefi, assistant professor of management information systems at Binghamton University, has developed a framework using a theory from psychology known as , which is the discomfort felt by those whose actions conflict with their beliefs (e.g. someone who believes that smoking is unhealthy but chain smokes). Along with Hamed Qahri-Saremi, assistant professor of information systems at DePaul University, Vaghefi developed a model showing that the degree of users' cognitive dissonance can make a difference in their willingness to quit their online addiction.

"Dissonance is what we need to work on and what we need to help increase for users to make sure that they will do some action to limit their control," said Vaghefi. "We have users who say, 'I know I'm using a lot, but everyone around me is using a lot.' What we need to do is highlight the for them. We can objectively use instruments that will show them the negative outcomes, so they will understand these consequences. Once people see those negative consequences, they will act on them and will be motivated to exert self-control."

Vaghefi tested the model on data collected from 226 students at Binghamton University, who said how much they were intending to either stop or continue their usage of . The findings show that a plausible way to help individuals to reduce or quit usage is to increase their cognitive dissonance. The findings suggest that making users aware of their addiction, in particular the consequences on personal, social, and academic lives caused by addiction, increases their cognitive dissonance about their behavior.

"People have already looked at the role of guilt in regard to technology use and how we can change it," said Vaghefi. "But what was not explained was how we can create this feeling of guilt. It's through this cognitive dissonance, a negative emotional state of mind, that once created can actually have an impact on the actual behavior and intention of people to stop or discontinue their usage habit."

Vaghefi believes that addressing these issues is especially important considering how commonplace technology usage and online behaviors are to today's youth. "It's so widespread and prevalent, especially the younger generation. These are people who have been raised with technology. They don't even feel that there is a problem. If you highlight the consequences for them, they will hopefully do something," he said.

Vaghefi presented "From IT Addiction to Discontinued Use: A Cognitive Dissonance Perspective" at the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. His work was nominated for best research paper.

Explore further: Warning labels should be introduced to prevent digital addiction, researchers find

Related Stories

Warning labels should be introduced to prevent digital addiction, researchers find

October 7, 2015
Labels and messages could encourage responsible use of digital devices and raise awareness of potential side effects

College students' heavy Internet use shares symptoms of addiction

December 19, 2013
Young adults who are heavy users of the Internet may also exhibit signs of addiction, say researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Duke University Medical Center and the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences ...

Carrots and sticks fail to change behaviour in cocaine addiction

June 16, 2016
People who are addicted to cocaine are particularly prone to developing habits that render their behaviour resistant to change, regardless of the potentially devastating consequences, suggests new research from the University ...

Recommended for you

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

July 21, 2017
Changes in the brain's structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.