The uncontrolled use of specific Internet applications is increasingly recognized as a mental health issue. Gaming disorder, which is one subtype of specific Internet-use disorders (sIUDs), has been included in the ICD-11 as disorder due to addictive behaviors. Addictive disorders are assumed to be accompanied by cognitive deficits as indicated by weaker performance in executive function and risky decision-making tasks. This study investigates risky decision-making in individuals with tendencies towards sIUDs including gaming, online buying-shopping, and social-networks-use disorders. A total of 293 individuals participated in the study. Based on specific screening instruments, the participants were assigned to a group with tendencies towards sIUD or a control group. Participants completed a risky decision-making task and questionnaires assessing risk-taking propensity, impulsivity, psychopathology, and perceived stress. The group with sIUD tendencies showed higher attentional impulsivity and higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to the control group. The groups did not differ in decision making and risk propensity. Decision making did not have significant effects on sIUD symptoms. Risk for developing sIUDs does not appear to be accompanied by altered general decision-making tendencies. Rather, psychological (pre-)load and attentional deficits appear to be relevant features in uncontrolled use of the Internet.
Keywords: cognitive functions; decision making; gaming disorder; impulsivity; internet addiction.