Attentional bias in Internet users with problematic use of social networking sites (2019)

J Behav Addict. 2019 Dec 2:1-10. doi: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.60.

Nikolaidou M1, Fraser DS1, Hinvest N1.



Evidence from the field of addictive disorders suggests that attentional bias for stimuli related to a substance or activity of abuse (e.g., gambling) exacerbates the addictive behavior. However, evidence regarding attentional bias in PIU is sparse. This study aims to investigate whether individuals who express problematic tendencies toward social networking sites (SNS), a subtype of PIU, show attentional bias for stimuli associated with social media.


Sixty-five participants performed Visual Dot-Probe and Pleasantness Rating Tasks containing SNS-related and matched control images during eye movements were recorded, providing a direct measure of attention. Participants were assessed on their levels of SNS Internet use (ranging from problematic to non-problematic) and their levels of urges to be online (high vs. low).


Problematic SNS users and, in particular, a subgroup expressing higher levels of urges to be online showed an attentional bias for SNS-related images compared to control images.


These results suggest that attentional bias is a common mechanism associated with problematic Internet use as well as other addictive disorders.

KEYWORDS: attentional bias; problematic Internet use; social networking sites; urges to be online

PMID: 31786935

DOI: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.60