Associations between social media use and cognitive abilities: Results from a large-scale study of adolescents

Stefan Stieger*, Sabine Wunderl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

8 Citations (Scopus)


In adolescence, smartphone use in general and social media use in particular has often been associated with negative effects, such as higher anxiety levels and body dissatisfaction. Other outcomes – such as fundamental cognitive abilities and skills (e.g., intelligence, information processing, spatial perception) – have rarely been the focus of research. Here, we analysed data from a large sample of adolescents (12–16 years; N > 12,000) who performed a series of psychometric tests ranging from intelligence, spatial perception, and information processing, to practical numeracy, and compared their test results with their social media usage (average active and passive time per day, problematic social media use). We additionally applied a random-forest model approach, useful for designs with many predictors and expected small effect sizes. Almost all associations did not outperform known age- and sex-differences on social media use; that is, effect sizes were small-to-tiny and had low importance in the random-forest analyses compared to dominant demographic effects. Negative effects of social media use may have been overstated in past research, at least in samples with adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107358
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Adolescents
  • Cognitive ability
  • Intelligence
  • Random-forest model
  • Social media use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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