Problematic Smartphone Use Leads to Behavioral and Cognitive Self-Control Deficits

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jun 17;19(12):7445. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19127445.


Excessive use of smartphones has been associated with a number of negative consequences for individuals. Some of these consequences relate to many symptoms of behavioral addiction. The present study aims to investigate whether participants with high levels of smartphone usage may have difficulty with their ability to wield the self-control that is needed to restrict smartphone usage compared to participants with lower levels of smartphone addiction. Specifically, we expect that people with high levels of smartphone usage may have problems in refraining from using a smartphone. In addition, we expect people with a high level of smartphone use may show deficiencies in cognitive tasks such as memory, executive control, and visual and auditory attention. An ABA design was applied to analyze the effects of smartphone withdrawal. The first A refers to baseline measurements: Visual RT, Auditory RT, Go/No-Go RT and N-Back RT and Eriksen flanker RT. The B refers to 3 days of smartphone withdrawal, whereas the second A refers to the same measurements used in the baseline. In addition, several standardized scales were administered, among them: Smartphone addiction scale-short version (SAS-SV), Fear of missing out scale (FoMOs), Procrastination scale, and Psychological General Well-Being Index. One hundred and eleven participants took part in the study. Based on median split they were divided into two groups: high level and low level smartphone users. Moreover, thanks to an app installed on the participants' smartphones, it was possible to measure levels of compliance with the task. Results indicate that participants with low levels of smartphone usage show less difficulty in their ability to wield the self-control needed to withdraw smartphone use and faster reaction times on cognitive tests than participants with high levels of smartphone usage. Moreover, the profile of participants with high levels of smartphone usage shows higher scores on the FoMOs and Procrastination scale, and lower scores in the Psychological General Well-Being Index. The results are discussed in light of self-regulation theory.

Keywords: cognitive effects; self-control deficits; smartphone addiction; smartphone withdrawal.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive* / psychology
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction*
  • Humans
  • Self-Control*
  • Smartphone

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.