Although the term “social media addiction” is widely used in mass media to describe excessive usage, whether this behaviour should be pathologised as a behavioural addiction is still hotly contested in the scientific literature, and currently no formal diagnosis of social media addiction exists. My PhD project will apply reward-based models derived from the substance addiction literature to investigate whether excessive social media use displays the neurocognitive characteristics of an addiction in some individuals. The project will utilise established experimental paradigms to assess reward responses at multiple levels and through different measurement modalities (self-reports, implicit behavioural, psychophysiological and neural). By integrating both experiential and implicit measures of reward, the project aims to establish subjective and objective incentives behind excessive social media usage. Not only will this help us to avoid over/under-pathologising daily life activities, the findings may also have implications for the development of more efficacious prevention and intervention strategies when those activities have harmful consequences.
Before beginning my PhD, I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Exeter, graduating with first class honours. I then completed a masters by research (MRes) at Bournemouth University, where I used fMRI and TMS techniques to investigate the neural mechanisms of selective attention. Some of this work has recently been accepted for publication in Frontiers in Psychology [Parris, Wadsley, Hasshim, Benattayallah, Augustinova, & Ferrand (in press) – An fMRI study of response and semantic conflict in the Stroop task. Front. Psychol. – Cognition].