Problematic Internet Users Show Impaired Inhibitory Control and Risk Taking with Losses: Evidence from Stop Signal and Mixed Gambles Tasks (2016)

Front Psychol. 2016 Mar 17;7:370. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00370. eCollection 2016.

Li Q1, Nan W2, Taxer J3, Dai W2, Zheng Y4, Liu X1.


According to the balance model of self-regulation, dysfunction of the inhibitory control and reward processing might be a behavioral marker for addiction and problematic behaviors. Although several studies have separately examined the inhibitory control or reward processing of individuals exhibiting problematic Internet use (PIU), no study has explored these two functions simultaneously to examine the potential imbalance of these functions. This study aimed to investigate whether the self-regulatory failure of PIU individuals results from deficits in both inhibitory control [indexed with the stop signal reaction time (SSRT) in a stop signal task] and risk taking with losses (measured as the acceptance rates of risky gables or the ratio of win/loss in a mixed gambles task). The results revealed that PIU individuals, compared with controls, showed decreased SSRT and increased error rates as well as reduced risk taking with losses. Correlational analyses revealed a significant positive relationship between the SSRT and risk taking with losses. These findings suggest that both the inhibitory control and reward functions are impaired in PIU individuals and reveal an association between these two systems. These results strengthen the balance model of self-regulation theory’s argument that deficits in inhibitory control and risk taking with losses may assist in identifying risk markers for early diagnosis, progression, and prediction of PIU.


cognitive control; inhibition response; problematic Internet use; reward processing; risk taking with losses