Researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business fitted 205 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 with BlackBerry devices in and around the German city of Würtzburg, haeded by Wilhelm Hofmann. Seven times a day over 14 hours for seven consecutive days, the participants were asked to message whether they were experiencing a desire at that moment or had experienced one within the last 30 minutes, what type it was, the strength (up to irresistible), whether it conflicted with other desires and whether they resisted or went along with it. There were 10,558 responses and 7,827 “desire episodes” reported.
Tweeting, Facebook or checking emails may be harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol – results indicate, according to researchers who tried to measure how well people could resist their desires. They even claim that while sleep and sex may be stronger urges, people are more likely to give in to using social and other media.
“Modern life is a welter of assorted desires marked by frequent conflict and resistance, the latter with uneven success,” said Hofmann. Sleep and leisure were the most problematic desires, suggesting “pervasive tension between natural inclinations to rest and relax and the multitude of work and other obligations”.
Hofmann told the Guardian, “Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist.”
“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.”
Hofmann added, “We made clear to participants that answering the BlackBerrys did not count. Also people really did not feel a desire to use them – they only beeped once in a while and, if anything, that was more annoying than pleasing, I guess. And there was nothing else they could use the devices for.”
Throughout the day your willpower decreases. The researchers found that resisting a particular urge frequently or recently increases the chance of caving in the next time. This is because our constant efforts to resist temptation sap our willpower which makes cravings even stronger. The results will soon be published in the journal Psychological Science.