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.