“Digital Addiction,” Hunt Allcott, Microsoft Research
BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES WORKSHOP
Abstract: Many have argued that digital technologies such as smartphones and social media are addictive. We develop an economic model of digital addiction and estimate it using a randomized experiment. Temporary incentives to reduce social media use have persistent effects, suggesting social media are habit forming. Allowing people to set limits on their future screen time substantially reduces use, suggesting self-control problems. Additional evidence suggests people are inattentive to habit formation and partially unaware of self-control problems. Looking at these facts through the lens of our model suggests that self-control problems cause 31 percent of social media use.
Hunt Allcott is an applied microeconomist who studies the intersection of behavioral economics and public economics: how people might not always act in their best interest, and how business and public policy can help or hurt. He is a Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a visiting instructor of economics at MIT (in 2021-2022), a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a co-editor of the Journal of Public Economics, and an affiliate of ideas42, Poverty Action Lab, and E2e. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and a BS and MS from Stanford University.
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