J Clin Psychiatry. 2016 Feb;77(2):269-274.
Osborne LA1, Romano M, Re F, Roaro A, Truzoli R, Reed P.
This study examined whether exposure to the Internet could create a preference for colors associated with visited Web sites and explored the possible relationship with self-reported problematic Internet use and Internet deprivation.
100 adult participants were divided into 2 groups; one was deprived access to the Internet for 4 hours, and the other was not. After this period, they were asked to choose a color and complete a series of psychometric questionnaires concerning mood (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule), anxiety (Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), and depression (Beck Depression Inventory). They were then given a 15-minute exposure to the Internet, and the Web sites they visited were recorded. They were then asked to again choose a color, complete the same psychometric questionnaires, and complete the Internet Addiction Test. The study was conducted between November 2013 and April 2014.
For Internet-deprived, but not nondeprived, subjects, a reduction of mood and increased anxiety was noted in the higher problematic Internet users following Web cessation. There was also a shift toward choosing the color most prominent on the visited Web sites in these participants. No shift in mood, or toward choosing the dominant Web site color, was seen in the lower problem users.
These findings suggest that the Internet can serve as a negative reinforcer for behavior in higher problem users and that the reinforcement obtained from the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms becomes conditioned, with the color and appearance of the visited Web sites giving them a more positive value.