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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Prevention paradox logic and problem gambling: Does low-risk gambling impose a greater burden of harm than high-risk gambling? (Open access)

By Paul Delfabbro and Daniel King.

Background and aims: The aim of this paper is to examine the evidence and arguments in favor of prevention paradox (PP) logic in the context of problem gambling. Evidence from recent studies of gambling and the distribution of harm across lower and higher risk gamblers is reviewed to examine the contention that the absolute burden of harm is greater in low-risk (LR) gamblers than the problem gamblers.
Methods: The review examines a number of methodological and conceptual concerns about existing evidence in support of the PP.
Results: The principal problems identified include the misclassification of LR gamblers; the use of binary scoring method that understates the frequency of harms in high-risk populations; a tendency to confuse behavior and harm; and the use of potentially overly inclusive definitions of harm with low thresholds of severity.
Discussion and conclusions: This paper makes a number of recommendations for enhancement of this area of research, including the use of clear definitions of harm and LR behavior and a greater focus on harm with material impacts on people’s quality of life.

“I can sit on the beach and punt through my mobile phone”: The influence of physical and online environments on the gambling risk behaviours of young men

Deans, E. G., Thomas, S. L., Daube, M., & Derevensky, J.

Gambling is rapidly emerging as an important public health issue, with gambling products causing considerable health and social harms to individuals, families and communities. Whilst researchers have raised concerns about online wagering environments, few studies have sought to explore how factors within different gambling environments (both online and land-based) may be influencing the wagering, and more broadly the gambling risk behaviours of young men. Using semi-structured interviews with 50 Australian men (20–37 years) who gambled on sport, we explored the ways in which online and land-based environments may be risk-promoting settings for gambling. This included the appeal factors associated with gambling in these environments, factors that encouraged individuals to gamble, and factors that encouraged individuals to engage in different, and more harmful types of gambling. Interviews were conducted over the course of a year (April 2015 to April 2016). We identified a number of situational and structural factors that promoted risky gambling environments for young men. In the online environment, gambling products had become exceedingly easy to access through mobile technologies, with young men subscribing to multiple accounts to access industry promotions. The intangibility of money within online environments impacted upon risk perceptions. In land-based environments, the social rituals associated with peer group behaviour and sport influenced risky patterns of gambling. The presence of both gambling and alcohol in pub environments led individuals to gamble more than they normally would, and on products that they would not normally gamble on. Land-based venues also facilitated access to multiple forms of gambling under the one roof. We identified a number of factors in both land and online environments that when combined, created risk-promoting settings for gambling among young men. By exploring these contextual conditions that give rise to gambling harm, we are better able to advocate for effective public health responses in creating environments that prevent harmful gambling.

Deans, E. G., Thomas, S. L., Daube, M., & Derevensky, J. (2016). ‘I can sit on the beach and punt through my mobile phone’: The influence of physical and online environments on the gambling risk behaviours of young men. Social Science & Medicine. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.08.017