Do cell phones make us less prosocial?

February 27, 2012

In an intriguing working paper from University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, it was found that cell phone use may be associated with becoming less socially minded and less likely to engage in prosocial behavior.

The study, which involved separate sets of college students in their early twenties, found that after a short period of cell phone use, the participants were less inclined to volunteer for a community service activity compared to the control group. The Atlantic reports that the cell phone users were also less motivated to solve word problems, even though they knew coming up with the answer would translate into a monetary donation to charity.

To explain this phenomenon, study author and marketing professor Rosellina Ferraro says: “The cell phone directly evokes feelings of connectivity to others, thereby fulfilling the basic human need to belong.” Meaning once the need to connect with others is met; our desire to feel empathy or engage is behavior that would help others is reduced.

These findings appear in the paper, The Effect of Mobile Phone Use on Prosocial Behavior.

Doctors diagnose their flaws

February 10, 2012

A survey of almost 1,891 physicians across the country finds that for some doctors, honesty is not always the best policy.

Approximately one third of participating physicians reported they did not completely agree that they should disclose medical errors to patients (20% of whom admitting they were afraid of being sued for malpractice).  TIME Healthland reports that 40 percent felt they did not need to disclose financial ties to drug or device companies.

In the past year, 55 percent of doctors said they had been more positive about a patient’s prognosis than warranted. Ten percent reported telling patients something that was not true.

Dr. Lisa Lezzioni, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author says:

“The finding that 55 percent had described a prognosis in a more positive manner than was warranted is pretty significant…They may not want to worry patients, or there may be cultural reasons why it feels inappropriate.”

According to The Huffington Post, the study notes that not enough training, insecurity over the accuracy of a prognosis, and lack of time may also play a role.

This study is published in the journal Health Affairs.


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