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.

I want to be alone (with my cellphone)

August 17, 2011

These days, a cell phone is much more than a method of communication. In fact, a new study shows it’s being used as just the opposite. According to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 13 percent of mobile owners pretend to be on their cell phone in order to avoid social interaction.

Out of the 2,277 people surveyed, younger cell phone users were most likely to have used this avoidance method – 30 percent of those between the ages of 18 to 29. In comparison, only 2 percent of those 65 and older have ignored someone by pretending to use their phone.

The survey also revealed people use their phones for:

  • Information retrieval: 51% had used their phone at least once to get information they needed right away
  • Emergencies: 40% of cell owners said their phone helped them in some kind of emergency situation
  • Entertainment: 42% said they used the cell phones to stave off boredom
  • Text messaging and picture taking: 73% of cell phone owners used their devices for each purpose
  • Multimedia: 54% of respondents used their phone to send photos or videos to others, while 44% used their phone to access the Internet

One percentage that is (pleasantly) surprising – 29 percent of cell phone owners reported turning off their phone for a period simply to take a break.

The perils of incorrect texting technique

July 9, 2009

On top of everything else there is to worry about – bills, your job, what you eat (just to name a few) – now you have to worry about your texting technique. Apparently there’s a proper way to text and continually using poor technique might cause hand, arm, and even neck pain. If you’re like me, and texting is your preferred form of communication, the results of this study might be slightly concerning … or simply resign you to a fate of hand and neck pain.

The study was conducted at the Sahlgrenska Academy (at the University of Gothenburg) in Sweden and was led by ergonomist Ewa Gustafsson. As part of the study, researchers analyzed the texting technique of 56 young adults who text on a daily basis. They used a device that measures flexibility in order to monitor muscular activity and thumb movement. About half of the participants complained of pain in the neck, arms, or hands.

They found that those experiencing pain tended to text with one thumb, using it at an increased speed and with less breaks. Participants with pain were also more likely to text while hunching over, therefore putting strain on the neck and back.

If you’re interested in improving the way you text, the study’s news release provides some not-exactly-groundbreaking advice:


Don’t sit in the same position for a long time; instead try to vary your position. Use the chair’s backrest. Relieve your forearms by resting them against a desk or your thighs. Use both thumbs. Avoid hunching over for a long time. Give your thumbs a break when typing long messages. Don’t type too fast.”


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