Excessive social media users demonstrate impaired decision making in the Iowa Gambling Task (2019)

J Behav Addict. 2019 Jan 9:1-5. doi: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.138.

Meshi D1, Elizarova A2, Bender A3,4, Verdejo-Garcia A5.



Online social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook provide users with myriad social rewards. These social rewards bring users back to SNSs repeatedly, with some users displaying maladaptive, excessive SNS use. Symptoms of this excessive SNS use are similar to symptoms of substance use and behavioral addictive disorders. Importantly, individuals with substance use and behavioral addictive disorders have difficulty making value-based decisions, as demonstrated with paradigms like the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT); however, it is currently unknown if excessive SNS users display the same decision-making deficits. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to investigate the relationship between excessive SNS use and IGT performance.


We administered the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS) to 71 participants to assess their maladaptive use of the Facebook SNS. We next had them perform 100 trials of the IGT to assess their value-based decision making.


We found a negative correlation between BFAS score and performance in the IGT across participants, specifically over the last block of 20 trials. There were no correlations between BFAS score and IGT performance in earlier blocks of trials.


Our results demonstrate that more severe, excessive SNS use is associated with more deficient value-based decision making. In particular, our results indicate that excessive SNS users may make more risky decisions during the IGT task.


This result further supports a parallel between individuals with problematic, excessive SNS use, and individuals with substance use and behavioral addictive disorders.

KEYWORDS: Facebook; Iowa Gambling Task; addiction; decision making; risk; social media

PMID: 30626194

DOI: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.138