Using cellular phones for text messaging has become a ubiquitous mode of communication in today’s American culture. Text messaging has become a primary source of relationship development and maintenance for many Americans, especially youth. Researchers have begun classifying excessive reliance on text messaging as an addictive behavior, which may lead to risky activities such as texting while driving. This study interprets texting dependence within a behavioral economics framework of addictive behavior and proposes a novel Delay Discounting of Texting Questionnaire (DDTQ). The DDTQ involves a hypothetical scenario wherein the respondent chooses between paying for an immediate text now and waiting to receive a free text message in the future. We validated the DDTQ using a relatively diverse crowdsourced sample from Amazon Mechanical Turk. The DDTQ demonstrated expected degrees of systematic discounting and yielded higher rates of delay discounting with reward values in a within-subjects evaluation of the magnitude effect. Finally, the DDTQ successfully discriminated different profiles of possible text-messaging dependence. Collectively, these findings suggest the DDTQ is a viable task for use in studying the behavioral economics of possible text-messaging dependence.
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We ran the exponential (Yi, Landes, & Bickel, 2009), simple hyperbolic (Mazur, 1987), and hyperboloid (Green & Myerson, 2004) discounting models for individuals who did not display exclusive responding and compared fits using Akaike’s information criteria (AIC). For both the $0.50 and $5.00 conditions, AIC results indicated preference in the following order: exponential > simple hyperbolic > hyperboloid. We note that this is an abnormal finding; however, the task involves both losses ($0.50 or $5.00 payment) and gains (ability to read text message immediately), which preclude direct theoretical comparisons to other discounting studies. The cross-commodity nature of money and text messaging further obfuscates conceptualization within standard accounts of delay discounting. Nevertheless, we are not the first to report findings suggesting that a simple exponential function outperforms theoretically derived models of delay discounting (e.g., Bickel, Yi, Landes, Hill, & Baxter, 2011). Future research should seek to disentangle these features to better account for theory; such a theoretical venture, however, was outside the scope of this study.
The astute reader will note, however, that this magnitude effect is observed with rewarding outcomes, not losses (see Estle et al., 2006; McKerchar, Pickford, & Robertson, 2013; Mitchell & Wilson, 2010). Our DDTQ may be considered a cross-commodity task combining both gains (texting immediacy) and losses (monetary payments), rending extrapolation of existing literature to the DDTQ rather difficult. Future research should isolate such variables to better understand the basic decision-making processes underlying delay discounting of text messaging.
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Conflict of Interest
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Reed, D.D., Becirevic, A., Atchley, P. et al. Validation of a Novel Delay Discounting of Text Messaging Questionnaire. Psychol Rec 66, 253–261 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-016-0167-2
- Text message
- Cellular phone
- Delay discounting
- Behavioral economics
- Amazon Mechanical Turk