Academic Minute Podcast

Peter Gerhardstein, Binghamton University – Assessing Problematic Digital Media Consumption

On Binghamton University Week: How much digital media is too much?

Peter Gerhardstein, professor of psychology, examines a new way to measure overuse.

Investigation of the perceptual and attention processes that influence the formation of our perceptions of the visual world and of visual memories, and exploration of the structure and content of visual representations comprise the primary foci of Gerhardstein’s research. He subscribes to the view that these areas’ processes are interrelated.

Current research in the lab includes investigations of both low-level perceptual development (investigating the development of contour integration, orientation sensitivity and other low-level vision abilities in infants and children) and higher-level issues relating to the ability to transfer training from screen media (video, television, interactive touch screens) to a ‘live,’ or 3-D person-to-person interaction, a situation in which young children have been found to underperform to a surprising degree.

An additional line of work is focused on the extent to which long-term exposure to digital content may alter visual perception, including orientation sensitivity. As part of this exploration, analysis of the underlying information contained in different types of images (natural, urban, TV and online digital content of many types) is conducted to inform our understanding of how online content itself differs from information in ‘real-world’ images.

Assessing Problematic Digital Media Consumption

Do you find yourself on your phone a lot? Has it ever crossed your mind that you could be addicted to digital media?

Unfortunately, current tools that measure the overuse of digital media are outdated, not only in the way they speak about technology but also in the way they are created with specific antiquated tech questions in mind. Due to the rapidly evolving nature of digital media, these questions become outdated and less relevant to measuring media addiction as time goes on.

To address these shortcomings, our research team has developed a tool that will make it easier for clinicians and researchers to measure digital media addiction as new technologies emerge. Our goal was to create something that reflects current understandings of how digital addiction works that wouldn’t go obsolete once the next big tech change hits.

We collaborated with the Digital Media and Treatment Education Center (DTEC) in Boulder, CO, to develop and test the Digital Media Overuse Scale, or dMOS. Instead of focusing on the tech, we built a set of skeletal questions that focus on psychology. Because of this, the tool is more versatile and can be applied to many domains of digital media, such as general smartphone use, internet video consumption, social media use, gaming, and pornography use. Clinicians and researchers who use the dMOS can make their investigations as broad or as granular as they’d like.

Initial indications are that the dMOS is a reliable, valid, and extendible clinical instrument capable of providing clinically relevant scores within and across digital media domains.

We will be conducting follow-up studies using the dMOS to garner more information and potentially expand the scale in collaboration with DTEC. We look forward to continuing to develop a useful tool in today’s age of digital media usage.

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