When deprived of food and smartphones, a group of college students worked harder to get their phones back. The findings appear in the journal Addictive Behaviors. “The frequency with which we use our cell phones every day is astounding, with estimates ranging from 5 to 9 hours per day,” said study author Sara O’Donnell.
For the study, 76 college students were deprived of their smartphones for two hours and deprived of food for three hours while they studied. They were then allowed to use a computerized game to earn time to use their phones or 100-calories of food.
They could spend as much time as they wanted to earn points towards phone use or food. Once the students decided they were finished, they were given the earned amount of food and phone time. The participants then completed another hour of studying without phone or food.
The researchers found that students were more motivated to work towards gaining back their smartphone time than food. Like all research, the study has limitations. The results found may be different if the deprivation periods for food and smartphones were different. How many hours of food deprivation would have to be experienced before people started preferring food over their smartphones?
Future research could see if the findings are applicable to other age groups.
The study, “Smartphones are more reinforcing than food for students,” was authored by Sara O’Donnell and Leonard H. Epstein.