Bad Choices Make Good Stories: The Impaired Decision-Making Process and Skin Conductance Response in Subjects With Smartphone Addiction (2019)

Front Psychiatry. 2019 Feb 22;10:73. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00073.

Khoury JM1,2,3, Couto LFSC1, Santos DA1, E Silva VHO1, Drumond JPS2, Silva LLCE2, Malloy-Diniz L1,3, Albuquerque MR3,4,5, das Neves MCL1,3,5, Duarte Garcia F1,3,5,6.


Introduction: Smartphone Addiction (SA) has caused negative consequences and functional impairments in college students, such as reduction of academic performance and impairment in sleep quality. Studies have shown that individuals with chemical and behavioral dependencies have a bias in decision-making process, which leads to short-term advantageous choices even if they cause long-term harm. This bias in decision-making process is accompanied by a change in somatic markers and is associated with the development and maintenance of addictive behavior. The decision-making process and the measurement of physiological parameters have not yet been analyzed in SA. The neuropsychological and physiological characterization of the SA can contribute to its approach with the other dependency syndromes and to its recognition as a disease.

Objective: we aimed to evaluate the decision-making process under risk and under ambiguity in individuals with SA and to measure the physiological parameters that accompany this process.

Method: We compared the performance in the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), Game of Dice Task (GDT) and skin conductance response (SCR) between 50 individuals with SA and 50 controls.

Results: Smartphone dependents presented a profile of impairment in decision-making under ambiguity, without impairment in decision-making under risk. They demonstrated lower SCR before disadvantageous choices, higher SCR after rewards and lower SCR after punishments during decision-making, which suggests difficulty in recognizing disadvantageous alternatives, high sensitivity to rewards, and low sensitivity to punishments.

Conclusion: The impairment in the decision-making process in smartphone dependents is similar to that found in other chemical and behavioral addictions, such as alcohol addiction, gambling disorders and pathological buy. The impairment in decision under ambiguity with preservation of decision under risk may reflect dysfunction of implicit emotional processes without dysfunction of explicit cognitive process. This profile can contribute to the recognition of SA as a behavioral dependence and to guide specific preventive and therapeutic strategies.

KEYWORDS: decision-making; game of dice task; lowa gambling test; skin conductance; smartphone addiction; somatic markers

PMID: 30853918

PMCID: PMC6395375

DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00073