University research shows texting is compulsion for young adults
- Nov. 20, 2012
- 1 Comment
Kaitlyn Hilgers said she’s addicted to texting.
“At certain points, I feel like I need to text someone,” said Hilgers, a junior from San Diego. “It’s not a want. It’s a need to text anybody and no one in particular.”
Hilgers said she sends about 75 texts a day, but her sense of addiction may not be typical of most college students.
Paul Atchley, a psychology professor, recently completed a study to determine whether texting was addictive to college students. Atchley, who has done several other studies on texting, found that young adults are able to think about it rationally, and it is more of a compulsion than an addiction.
“People feel the need to text back quickly. They receive a text, but they can withhold responding to that text if they really need to do so,” Atchley said. “It was a surprise, honestly. I thought we’d find more evidence of addiction.”
Atchley, with the help of Amelia Warden, a senior from Lawrence, used behavioral decision-making techniques with about 100 University students to come up with the findings. The duo assessed if students were willing to wait to text to gain a monetary reward.
“What we found is, people are willing to wait, but they aren’t willing to wait that long,” Atchley said. “I think this is because responding to a text doesn’t make sense if too much time goes by. If you asked me a question and it takes me a day to get the answer to you, there’s probably no purpose to me responding at that point. So, young adults feel like they need to respond quickly for it to be relevant.”
Warden, who assisted in conducting research, writing the program and analyzing the data, said that she personally does not feel compelled to text. Warden got involved with the two-year study partly because she views texting as bothersome.
“I feel like it takes away an innate personal interaction you can have with somebody,” Warden said. “Over the years, I’ve felt social pressure to respond to texts from people.”
She said her friends thought she was bad at texting because doesn’t text often and doesn’t respond quickly.
Atchley said that because people are able to make rational decisions about texting, he thinks it is possible to change people’s behaviors regarding texting and driving with educational messages.
“If it was truly an addiction, it would be far more difficult,” he said. “I think that what we found so far is that young adults are largely aware of how risky it is to text and drive.”
This is the case with Hilgers, who said she does not text while driving because it is unsafe. Instead, she asks a passenger to text for her.
The study was funded by the KU Transportation Research Institute, and was published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.
Atchley, who has studied driving for more than 25 years, said he would continue to conduct research on the topic.
“There is no worse example of how a distraction can kill you than texting and driving,” he said.