Case study

Trying to predict smartphone addiction

How often do you use your smartphone? Is it likely to develop into an addiction? Psychology student Lewis Mitchell may have the answer. He has carried out a study as part of a research internship that tries to predict problematic smartphone use - resulting in his work being published.

Leading the way

Lewis was already interested in technology addiction when he chose to become involved in the research project after completing a Cyberpsychology module taught by Dr Zaheer Hussain on his BSc (Hons) Psychology degree. 

Dr Hussain is leading the way on research into smartphone addiction and other contemporary issues. Lewis was excited to work with him on the research. He never imaged it would result in his research being published in a reputable journal with his name alongside his teacher's as the author of the work. 

Lewis explains: “Cyberpsychology is a contemporary area of psychology that has a huge relevance to the modern world but the research is still in its infancy. This gave me an opportunity to research something that I took an interest in."

An introduction to research 

The internship introduced Lewis to the full scope of research, “building a rationale, data collection, analysis and drawing conclusions”.

He says: “We investigated the effect of various personality and demographic characteristics on problematic smartphone use, in an attempt to scrutinise current theory and broaden understanding of this area.”

He particularly enjoyed the background reading and research before conducting the main study, as well as the data analysis: “It was great to refine such a large volume of data into a set of interesting results which formed the basis of our conclusions.”

people using smartphones

Addiction prediction

Their research concluded that certain behavioural traits, including impulsiveness and excessive reassurance seeking, along with other factors such as depression and age, were related to smartphone addiction but that gender had no impact.

As a result of these findings, the research report - Predictors of Problematic Smartphone Use: An Examination of the Integrative Pathways Model and the Role of Age, Gender, Impulsiveness, Excessive Reassurance Seeking, Extraversion, and Depression by Lewis Mitchell and Zaheer Hussain - was published in the Behavioural Sciences journal, a rare feat for an undergraduate student.

Important contribution

Dr Hussain feels the research project is invaluable to Lewis's future in academia.

"The research project itself was an important contribution to scientific knowledge, this is why it has been published in an international peer-reviewed journal," he says. "The research experience and publication has improved Lewis's career prospects and general confidence in doing research."

Lewis is about to start a masters degree in Research Methods in Psychology and feels that the project, and having their work published, has been a good introduction to research. His advice to anyone looking to start a research project is: “Pick a topic you’re passionate about, read around the area in detail, stay organised, speak to experts in the field and, most importantly, enjoy what you’re doing.”

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