Internet use disorder (IUD), a growing concern in the digital age, is intricately linked to personality traits and cognitive emotion regulation strategies (CERS), a recent study reveals. Conducted by a team of international researchers, the study delves into how the Big Five personality traits correlate with tendencies towards IUD and how CERS mediates this relationship.
The study, encompassing 710 university students and staff in Iran, utilised the Internet Addiction Test (IAT) as a measure for IUD tendencies, the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) for personality traits, and the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire for assessing CERS. It focused on the Big Five personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism – and their associations with IUD tendencies.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, highlighted significant correlations between certain personality traits and IUD tendencies. Agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness showed negative associations with IUD tendencies, suggesting that individuals high in these traits are less prone to developing problematic internet use. On the other hand, neuroticism was positively associated with IUD tendencies, indicating a higher risk for those with this trait. Interestingly, extraversion did not show a significant association with IUD tendencies.
A critical aspect of the research was exploring the mediating role of CERS between personality traits and IUD tendencies. CERS are divided into two facets: adaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies (ACERS) and maladaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies (MACERS). The study found that CERS partially mediated the relationship between personality traits and IUD tendencies. Specifically, ACERS like acceptance, positive refocusing, and positive reappraisal were linked to lower IUD tendencies, while MACERS such as self-blame, rumination, and catastrophizing were associated with higher IUD tendencies.
These findings underscore the importance of considering personality traits and emotion regulation strategies in understanding and addressing IUD. They provide valuable insights for developing targeted interventions to mitigate IUD tendencies, especially for individuals exhibiting high neuroticism or low conscientiousness. The study suggests that enhancing ACERS while reducing reliance on MACERS could be an effective approach to managing IUD.
The study acknowledges certain limitations, including its focus on a specific population (university students and staff in Iran), which might affect the generalisability of the findings. Additionally, the cross-sectional nature of the study limits the ability to infer causality.