Social-networks-use disorder is discussed as a potential further type of disorders due to addictive behaviors. Theoretical models assume cue-induced craving and disadvantageous decision making to be relevant mechanisms. This study investigates if the presentation of social-networks-related cues interferes with decision making under ambiguity.
Craving was induced with a cue-reactivity paradigm and assessed with a visual analogue scale. Participants (N = 146) played a modified Iowa Gambling Task with social-networks-related cues and neutral cues presented on the advantageous and disadvantageous decks respectively, or vice versa. Symptoms of social-networks-use disorder were measured with a modified version of the short Internet Addiction Test.
Overall, participants chose options with neutral cues more often than those with social-networks-related cues, even if it was disadvantageous. There was a significant interaction between decision-making performance and Iowa Gambling Task condition in predicting symptom severity. The results indicate that choosing decks with social-networks-related cues even if it was disadvantageous is associated with higher tendencies towards a social-networks-use disorder. The interaction with cue-induced craving did not explain further variance.
The results highlight the relevance of cue reactivity, decision making, and their interaction as potential mechanisms explaining tendencies towards a social-networks-use disorder. Decision making was influenced by affective responses, which could result in a higher risk of a potential addictive behavior. This is consistent with the findings from addiction research and with theoretical approaches assuming an imbalance between affective and cognitive processes in addictive behaviors.