Re: Internet use causes depression and loneliness

Robin Hanson (
Wed, 02 Sep 1998 10:27:45 -0700

Curt Adams writes:
>>They are trying to use the timing of variables to infer causality;
>>things that are measured earlier likely cause, and are not caused by,
>>things that are measured later. So to disambiguate cause, they measure
>>soc/psych both before and after internet use. Of course there's always
>>the possiblity of unmeasured variables causing everything, such as
>>unmeasured "during" soc/psych. But it seems to me they have done the
>>reasonable thing with the data the have.
>Even by that standard, then, they've overreached in deducing causation.
>Neither the family communication-usage nor depression-usage correlations
>changed significantly from pre to post, although loneliness

You've lost me here.

>Also, the *change* in psychological state is contemporaneous with
>internet use, and so with respect to that as a causative factor, they
>don't have temporal control. If *losing* friends makes people turn
>to the internet (as opposed to not having them in the first place)
>then you get the reported results, even with the reverse of the inferred

They went in and caused internet access for these people, so they presume that any change they then see in soc/psych is caused by internet access, rather than the other way around.

Robin Hanson RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614