Researchers at the University of Chicago used Blackberrys and measured the willpower of 205 people ages 18 to 85 in and around the German city of Würtzburg. They wanted to measure how well people could resist their desires.
They found that while the urge for sex or sleep is stronger, people were more likely to give in to the desire to use online media.
The results are to be published in the journal Psychological Science.
"Modern life is a welter of assorted desires marked by frequent conflict and resistance, the latter with uneven success," Wilhelm Hofmann, who led the research by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, told The Guardian .
He said the results suggest "pervasive tension between natural inclinations to rest and relax and the multitude of work and other obligations."
"Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not 'cost much' to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist," he said. "With cigarettes and alcohol there are more costs – long-term as well as monetary – and the opportunity may not always be the right one. So, even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may steal 'steal' a lot of people's time."
The study involved signaling participants seven times a day over 14 hours for seven consecutive days. The recipients were to message back whether they were experiencing a desire at that moment or had experienced one within the last 30 minutes. They also clarified the type of desire, the strength of it (up to irresistible,) whether the desire conflicted with other desires, and whether they resisted or gave into it.
The study recorded 10,558 responses and 7,827 "desire episodes," reported The Guardian.