Measuring facets of reward sensitivity, inhibition, and impulse control in individuals with problematic Internet use (2019)

Psychiatry Res. 2019 Mar 19;275:351-358. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2019.03.032.

Vargas T1, Maloney J2, Gupta T3, Damme KSF4, Kelley NJ5, Mittal VA6.



Problematic Internet Use (PIU) is the inability to control the amount of time spent on the Internet. Research indicates that abnormalities in reward sensitivity, sensitivity to punishment, and impulse control drive addictive behaviors such as substance abuse and gambling disorders, but it is unclear whether this is also the case in PIU.


Behavioral tasks and scales were completed by 62 participants (32 PIU individuals and 30 no-PIU individuals) to assess reward sensitivity, sensitivity to punishment, as well as inhibitory function and impulse control. Measures administered included Go/No-Go, delay discounting, Behavioral Inhibition/Activation (BIS/BAS) scales and the Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire (SPSRQ).


The PIU group endorsed greater reward sensitivity and punishment sensitivity as indexed by the SPSRQ. However, there were no group differences with regards to delay discounting, performance in the Go/No-Go task, or endorsement in the BIS/BAS scales.


The present study found increased reward sensitivity and sensitivity to punishment in PIU individuals, though impulse control was not observably affected. Future experimental studies are needed to inform our conceptualization of the etiology of addictive behavior as it pertains to PIU. Further investigation will aid in informing prevention and intervention efforts.

KEYWORDS: Addiction; BIS/BAS scales; Behavioral Activation System; Behavioral Inhibition System; Delay discounting; Impulse control; Inhibitory function; PIU; Reward sensitivity; SPSRQ

PMID: 30954846

DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2019.03.032