Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Maureen Carrigan

Second Advisor

Anne Ellison

Third Advisor

Ed Callen


Objective: Although Cue-Reactivity was originally developed and used with substance addictions, there has been development and validation of cue-reactivity paradigms with behavioral addictions. Concurrently, there has been a rise of literature and research into Smartphone dependency, a type of behavioral addiction. However, there has not been a study looking into cue-reactivity in conjunction with smartphone dependency. Therefore, the current study was developed to create and test a cue-reactivity paradigm for smartphone addiction to better understand the learning principles behind it. Since most individuals do not realize the severity of their dependence on the device, it is important to have definitive conclusions.

Method: The data from 54 participants was utilized in this study, with 40 participants being included in the physiological analyses. Participants were exposed to both addiction-related and neutral cues and their self-reported craving/urge ratings and EDA reactivity was recorded in response to cue presentation. Then, they were asked to complete a variety of individual difference measures such as the State Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Fear of Missing Out Scale. Other smartphone specific demographics were collected to analyze specific phone usage metrics in correlation to reactivity.

Results: Results indicated that participants had higher self-report craving/urge and physiological arousal to the addiction related cue than the neutral cue overall. Results also showed that the more addicted participants were to their smartphone, as evidenced by scores on the Smartphone Addiction Scale, the more they craved their smartphone. Lastly, results showed that Nomophobia, the fear of being without one’s phone, was predictive of heightened craving/urge to use one’s smartphone.

Conclusions: To the authors’ knowledge, this study was the first to test a cue-reactivity paradigm with smartphone dependency. The results showed individuals react to addiction-related cues associated with smartphones in the same way that individuals respond in other cue-reactivity paradigms with other addictions. Therefore, one can infer that classical conditioning is a process that contributes to smartphone dependency.