Mental Logout: Behavioral and Neural Correlates of Regulating Temptations to Use Social Media

Nurit Sternberg*, Roy Luria, Gal Sheppes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals sometimes use social media instead of sleeping or while driving. This fact raises the crucial need for—and challenge of—successfully self-regulating potent social-media temptations. To date, however, empirical evidence showing whether social-media temptations can be self-regulated and how self-regulation can be achieved remains scarce. Accordingly, the present within-participants study (N = 30 adults) provided causal evidence for self-regulation of social-media content and identified a potential underlying neural mechanism. We tested the premise that successful self-regulation requires limiting the mental representation of temptations in working memory. Specifically, we showed that loading working memory with neutral contents via attentional distraction, relative to passively watching tempting social-media stimuli, resulted in reduced self-reported desire to use social media, reduced initial attention allocation toward social-media stimuli (reduced late-positive-potential amplitudes), and reduced online representation of social-media stimuli in working memory (reduced contralateral-delay-activity amplitudes). These results have important implications for successfully navigating a social-media-saturated environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1527-1536
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • attentional distraction
  • desire
  • open data
  • self-regulation
  • social media
  • working memory


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