The excessive use of mobile devices stems from the inability to control one’s impulses, says a new study. The study explores the link between this behavioural trait with electronic device usage as conducted by psychologists from the Temple University and published in the Springer’s journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review2.

Temple University psychologists Henry Wilmer and Jason Chein add that heavy users simply cannot delay gratification. They say that these gadgets are useful in everyday lives but little research has investigated usage behaviour and specific mental processes and traits.

They handed out questionnaires and cognitive tests to 91 undergrads that inquired about the students’ total time spent to check their phones, update their social media status and engage in other social media activities.

People who constantly check and use their mobile devices throughout the day may be more impatient and impulsive. Photo from ivanko80 / Fotolia

People who constantly check and use their mobile devices throughout the day may be more impatient and impulsive. Photo from ivanko80 / Fotolia / ScienceDaily

The participants’ impulse control, likeability to carry out rewarding tasks, and their tendency to delay gratification to reap larger, later rewards has also been taken into account. The researchers made them choose between a smaller amount of money offered immediately or a larger amount offered at a later time.

The researchers concluded that those who excessively use their mobile phones cannot delay gratification, and want their rewards immediately. Their study also supports previous research that heavy gadget use is linked with poor impulse control and inability to value delay rewards.

“The findings provide important insights regarding the individual difference factors that relate to technology engagement,” says Chein. “These findings are consistent with the common perception that frequent smartphone use goes hand in hand with impatience and impulsivity.”

Another study published in the Computers in Human Behaviour journal has found that cellphone addiction is associated with anxiety and depression. The study was conducted to college students, showing that breaking addictive technology habits could pave the way to treat mental problems like general anxiety and depression.

More studies are still needed to understand other unknown effects of cellphone use on mental health. Nevertheless, this study does not insist that people should avoid devices.

“We shouldn’t be scared of people connecting online or talking on their phones,” researcher Alejandro Lleras added. “The interaction with the device is not going to make you depressed if you are just using it when you are bored.”