Dual mechanisms of reinforcement reward and habit in driving smartphone addiction

Chongyang Chen (Research Center for Smarter Supply Chain, Dongwu Business School, Soochow University, Suzhou, China)
Kem Z.K. Zhang (International School of Business and Finance, Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai, China)
Xiang Gong (School of Management, Xi’an Jiao Tong University, Xi’an, China)
Matthew Lee (Department of Information Systems, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Publication date: 30 May 2019



In the limited existing research on smartphone addiction, reinforcement reward and automatic habit have been identified as two distinct underlying mechanisms. The purpose of this paper is to better understand the interaction between these two mechanisms, as well as role of smartphone features in activating different formation mechanisms.


An online survey with 379 samples was conducted to empirically validate the model. The data were analyzed by structural equation modeling approach.


The automatic habit strengthens the driving effects of reinforcement rewards (i.e. perceived enjoyment and mood regulation) on smartphone addiction. Smartphone features activate distinct underlying mechanisms. Value-added function facilitates the perception of reinforcement rewards, while convenience promotes the habit formation.


This study is one of the first ones that assess the interplay between the two formation mechanisms in the extant literature on smartphone addiction. This study also reveals the dangers of smartphone features which have always been regarded as advantages. The findings contribute to the current understandings of smartphone addiction.



Chen, C., Zhang, K., Gong, X. and Lee, M. (2019), "Dual mechanisms of reinforcement reward and habit in driving smartphone addiction", Internet Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/INTR-11-2018-0489

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