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Facebook, Television, Web, and Iphones Are Harder to Resist than Drinking

By — One of many Psychology blogs on

Welcome to Mental Marvels-where the focus is brain activity and mental phenomenons.

Today, I thought that I would discuss something that most people may not know: New research suggests that new forms of media are more difficult to resist than drinking.

The Facts

Most members of society would admit that the urge to drink can be quite strong, but, according to a paper presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s annual conference held in San Diego, getting work done or chatting with friends on Facebook is more difficult for Germans to resist than drinking or smoking. Researchers discovered that the desires that were harder to resist were either related to technology in some way or toward goal-centered activities, such as projects for work or school. Wilhelm Hofmann, Ph.D., a Behavioral Science Professor at the University of the Chicago, said, "Desires for media like watching television, surfing the Internet, using your iPhone, and our desire to work — that is, the intrinsic desire to get your work done —these are the hardest to resist."

Putting It to the Test

In a recent study, investigators examined the willpower of 205 adults ranging from 18- to 55-years-old. They used study-provided smartphones to check-in with participants seven times a day to see if they were feeling or recently felt any desire or urge. Researchers evaluated any sort of desire and also looked at the severity of the desire or urge. They then asked participants if they resisted or gave in to those desires. Since the study was carried out in Würtzburg, Germany, it's unclear if this is a regional or global phenomenon.

At the conclusion of the test, researchers gathered 10,558 responses and 7,827 episodes where an urge or desire had been reported. Sleep was a very strong desire for many of the subjects, but they found that resisting sleep was simpler considering there were few opportunities to sleep outside of their houses. Of course, the urges that were the most difficult to resist were those related to technology. 

Hofman suggests that the desire for media could be more difficult to resist due to the high availability and because it doesn't feel like it's very expensive, relatively speaking. Drinking and smoking are activities that aren't easily available to most people throughout the day; plus, they are more costly, financially, and socially. He says, "With cigarettes and alcohol there are more costs — long-term as well as monetary — and the opportunity may not always be the right one. Even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may still ‘steal’ a lot of people’s time."

The study also found that the willpower decreased as the day went on. This means that it may be wise to not make big purchases later in the day. It also says to avoid certain behaviors that may reduce one's willpower or inhibitions.


Photo Credit:

Spencer E Holtaway

MJ/TR (´ï½¥ωï½¥)

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