Alienation as Mediator and Moderator of the Relationship Between Virtues and Smartphone Addiction Among Chinese University Students

  • Ling LianEmail author
Original Article


Research reports that high alienation can increase smartphone addiction; however, few studies have explored potential protective factors such as virtues. Understanding virtues as protective factors may help prevent smartphone addiction and promote effective interventions. This study examined the relationship among virtues (i.e. interpersonal, vitality, and conscientiousness), alienation and smartphone addiction. Seven hundred sixteen Chinese university students (385 males, 331 females) aged 18–24 years completed the 96-item Chinese Virtues Questionnaire, General Alienation Scale, and Mobile Phone Addiction Index. Results indicated that both interpersonal and conscientiousness virtues negatively predicted smartphone addiction. Alienation mediated the relationship between interpersonal and smartphone addiction, whereas conscientiousness directly affected smartphone addiction regardless of alienation level. Moreover, alienation moderated the link between conscientiousness and smartphone addiction. When students reported low alienation, those with high conscientiousness also reported lower smartphone addiction. However, there was no difference in smartphone addiction between high and low conscientiousness groups when alienation was high. This study clarified the positive role of specific virtues in reducing alienation and smartphone addiction. Future smartphone addiction intervention strategies could focus on enhancing interpersonal and conscientiousness virtues and reducing alienation. University administrators and educators should focus on improving low alienation students’ conscientiousness.


Smartphone addiction Alienation Interpersonal virtue Conscientiousness virtue China 



This study was funded by the Philosophy and Social Sciences Research Project of Xi’an Polytechnic University (grant number 2017ZXSK09) and the Education Department of Shaanxi Provincial Government, PRC (grant number 2013JK0031).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants for being included in the study.

Human Rights

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyXi’an Polytechnic UniversityXi’anChina

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