A new study posted on the Medical Daily website, reveals that the need to check social accounts such as Twitter, Facebook or even email for updates may be even more tempting than using alcohol or cigarettes. In a study led by Asst. Prof. Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of the Chicago Booth School of Business, more than 200 participants between the ages 18 to 85 were given Blackberry phones to gauge their willpower "in the wild" outside a laboratory setting.
The study had researchers message the participants 7 times per day over 14 hours for 1 week asking the participants if they were experiencing a desire at the moment or had experienced an urge within the last 30 minutes.
The researchers went on to ask the participants about the type of desires they felt, the strength of the desire and whether or not it conflicted with other desires and if they resisted or submitted to their urge.
Researchers said that there were 10,558 responses and 7,827 "desire episodes" reported.
The study found that that as the day wore on, willpower became lower. Their paper says highest "self-control failure rates" were recorded with media. "Resisting the desire to work was likewise prone to fail. In contrast, people were relatively successful at resisting sports inclinations, sexual urges, and spending impulses, which seems surprising given the salience in modern culture of disastrous failures to control sexual impulses and urges to spend money."
It is especially hard for people to resist the desire to work even when it conflict with other goals such as socializing or leisure activities because "work can define people’s identities, dictate many aspects of daily life, and invoke penalties if important duties are shirked."
Hofmann suggested that the desires for media may be harder to resist because of its high availability and also because it "feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist," according to the Guardian.
"With cigarettes and alcohol there are more costs – long-term as well as monetary – and the opportunity may not always be the right one. So, even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may still ‘steal’ a lot of people’s time," he said to the publication.
Hofmann said that he and his team of researchers made it very clear to participants that answering the BlackBerry phones did not count as a case of submitting to an urge. He said that participants did not feel a need to use them, and the phones only alerted them once in a while and "if anything was more annoying than pleasing" he believed. He added that there was nothing else the Blackberrys could have been used for besides answering back to researchers. The study results are expected to be published in the journal Psychological Science.
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