Excessive social media users demonstrate impaired decision making in the Iowa Gambling Task [open access article]

Background and aims: 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.

Methods: 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. Results: 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.

Discussion: 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. Conclusion: This result further supports a parallel between individuals with problematic, excessive SNS use, and individuals with substance use and behavioral addictive disorders. Access full article

Citation: Meshi, D., Elizarova, A., Bender, A., & Verdejo-Garcia, A. (2018). Journal of Behavioral Addictions. DOI: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.138

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The Case for Using Personally Relevant and Emotionally Stimulating Gambling Messages as a Gambling Harm-Minimisation Strategy (open access)

Harris, A., Parke, A., & Griffiths, M. D.
Emotions typically exert powerful, enduring, and often predictable influences over decision-making. However, emotion-based decision-making is seen as a mediator of impulsive and reckless gambling behaviour, where emotion may be seen as the antithesis of controlled and rational decision-making, a proposition supported by recent neuroimaging evidence. The present paper argues that the same emotional mechanisms can be used to influence a gambler to cease gambling, by focusing their emotional decision-making on positive external and personally relevant factors, such as familial impact or longer term financial factors. Emotionally stimulating messages may also have the advantage of capturing attention above and beyond traditionally responsible gambling messaging. This is important given the highly emotionally aroused states often experienced by both gamblers and problem gamblers, where attentional activation thresholds for external stimuli such as messages may be increased.

Games in the Brain: Neural Substrates of Gambling Addiction. – PubMed – NCBI

As a popular form of recreational risk taking, gambling games offer a paradigm for decision neuroscience research. As an individual behavior, gambling becomes dysfunctional in a subset of the population, with debilitating consequences. Gambling disorder has been recently reconceptualized as a “behavioral addiction” in the DSM-5, based on emerging parallels with substance use disorders. Why do some individuals undergo this transition from recreational to disordered gambling? The biomedical model of problem gambling is a “brain disorder” account that posits an underlying neurobiological abnormality. This article first delineates the neural circuitry that underpins gambling-related decision making, comprising ventral striatum, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, dopaminergic midbrain, and insula, and presents evidence for pathophysiology in this circuitry in gambling disorder. These biological dispositions become translated into clinical disorder through the effects of gambling games…

via Games in the Brain: Neural Substrates of Gambling Addiction. – PubMed – NCBI.