I'm Professor Andy Przybylski (shuh-bill-ski) a social science researcher at the University of Oxford. My work is mainly concerned with applying psychological models of motivation and health to study how people interact with virtual environments including video games and social media. I'm particularly interested in integrating open, robust, and reproducible science with evidence-based policymaking in the digital age.
ONLY HOLISTIC AND ITERATIVE CHANGE WILL FIX DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH
A Orben, N Weinstein & AK Przybylski
The study of digital technologies and how they influence adolescents is flourishing, informed by a steady stream of empirical studies, evidence reviews and meta-analyses (Dickson et al., 2018; Orben, 2020). Yet the scope of these studies is limited. Most of the investigations pursued in social, psychological and health sciences subscribe to a so-called “concern-centric” approach. In other words, they frame their research questions in terms of whether and if so, how, various digital technologies might negatively impact their users. To this end, most adopt an implicit dose-response perspective: they treat technology use as the dose, for which response outcomes need to be quantified (e.g., decreases in mental health or increases in obesity). Thus, an exact “dose” of technology use must be measured. Addressing this challenge, the broad majority of research uses as its dose the time spent interacting with a technology or multiple technologies, i.e., so-called “screen time.” By using screen time as their explanatory anchor, current research therefore reduces the diverse, dynamic, nuanced and pervasive role digital technologies play in contemporary life to a series of oversimplified time estimates.
USE CAUTION WHEN APPLYING BEHVIOURAL SCIENCE TO POLICY
AK Przybylski, N Weinstein, L DeBruine et al.
Social and behavioural scientists have attempted to speak to the COVID-19 crisis. But is behavioural research on COVID-19 suitable for making policy decisions? We offer a taxonomy that lets our science advance in ‘evidence readiness levels’ to be suitable for policy. We caution practitioners to take extreme care translating our findings to applications.
MULTIDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH PRIORITIES FOR THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: A CALL FOR ACTION FOR MENTAL HEALTH SCIENCE
EA Holmes, VH Perry, L Arseneault et al.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is having a profound effect on all aspects of society, including mental health and physical health. We explore the psychological, social, and neuroscientific effects of COVID-19 and set out the immediate priorities and longer-term strategies for mental health science research. These priorities were informed by surveys of the public and an expert panel convened by the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the mental health research charity, MQ: Transforming Mental Health, in the first weeks of the pandemic in the UK in March 2020. We urge UK research funding agencies to work with researchers, people with lived experience, and others to establish a high-level coordination group to ensure that these research priorities are addressed, and to allow new ones to be identified over time. The need to maintain high-quality research standards is imperative. International collaboration and a global perspective will be beneficial. An immediate priority is collecting high-quality data on the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the whole population and vulnerable groups, and on brain function, cognition, and mental health of patients with COVID-19. There is an urgent need for research to address how mental health consequences for vulnerable groups can be mitigated under pandemic conditions and on the impact of repeated media consumption and health messaging around COVID-19. Discovery, evaluation, and refinement of mechanistically driven interventions to address the psychological, social, and neuroscientific aspects of the pandemic are required. Rising to this challenge will require integration across disciplines and sectors, and should be done together with people with lived experience. New funding will be required to meet these priorities, and it can be efficiently leveraged by the UK's world-leading infrastructure. This Position Paper provides a strategy that may be both adapted for, and integrated with, research efforts in other countries.
INVESTIGATING THE MOTIVATIONAL AND PSYCHOSOCIAL DYNAMICS OF DYSREGULATED GAMING: EVIDENCE FROM A PREREGISTERED COHORT STUDY
AK Przybylski & N Weinstein
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and World Health Organization (WHO) have called for research investigating the clinical relevance of dysregulated video-game play. A growing number of exploratory studies have applied self-determination theory to probe the psychological dynamics of problematic gaming, but little is known about these dynamics in adolescents—the targets of most concerns—or the extent to which dysregulated gaming, in turn, affects functioning. In our study of British adolescents and their caregivers (n = 2,008), we adopted a confirmatory lens to test the extent to which basic psychological need satisfactions and frustrations underlie dysfunctional gaming behavior. The results, in line with preregistered sampling and data-analysis plans, indicated the frustrations, but not the absence of satisfactions, of psychological needs predicted adolescents’ dysregulated gaming and psychosocial functioning. Our discussion focuses on the clinical significance of gaming dysregulation and the advantages of transparent scientific practices for research informed by, and meant to inform, APA and WHO guidance.
SOCIAL MEDIA’S ENDURING EFFECT ON ADOLESCENT LIFE SATISFACTION
A Orben, T Dienlin, & AK Przybylski
In this study, we used large-scale representative panel data to disentangle the between-person and within-person relations linking adolescent social media use and well-being. We found that social media use is not, in and of itself, a strong predictor of life satisfaction across the adolescent population. Instead, social media effects are nuanced, small at best, reciprocal over time, gender specific, and contingent on analytic methods.
AK Przybylski & N Weinstein
In this study, we investigated the extent to which adolescents who spend time playing violent video games exhibit higher levels of aggressive behaviour when compared with those who do not. A large sample of British adolescent participants (n = 1004) aged 14 and 15 years and an equal number of their carers were interviewed. Young people provided reports of their recent gaming experiences. Further, the violent contents of these games were coded using official EU and US ratings, and carers provided evaluations of their adolescents' aggressive behaviours in the past month. Following a preregistered analysis plan, multiple regression analyses tested the hypothesis that recent violent game play is linearly and positively related to carer assessments of aggressive behaviour. Results did not support this prediction, nor did they support the idea that the relationship between these factors follows a nonlinear parabolic function. There was no evidence for a critical tipping point relating violent game engagement to aggressive behaviour. Sensitivity and exploratory analyses indicated these null effects extended across multiple operationalizations of violent game engagement and when the focus was on another behavioural outcome, namely, prosocial behaviour. The discussion presents an interpretation of this pattern of effects in terms of both the ongoing scientific and policy debates around violent video games, and emerging standards for robust evidence-based policy concerning young people's technology use.