Share & Connect
A series of experiments at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business has confirmed that there is a correlation between cell phone usage and one’s social behavior: those who are prone to using their cell phones become less social, even to the point of acting selfish, despite the electronic device’s intended purpose of making people more connected.
Professors Anastasiya Pochptsova and Rosellina Ferraro, along with graduate student Ajay Abraham, intended to study what they call prosocial behavior, which, as they define, is “action intended to benefit another person or society as a whole.” They gathered a number of volunteers, who consisted of men and women in their early twenties.
“We would expect a similar pattern of effects with people from other age groups,” Ferraro said in the University of Maryland’s press release. “Given the increasing pervasiveness of cellphones, it does have the potential to have broad social implications.”
Overall, there were several groups, half of which used cell phones, and the other half which did not. Only after a short amount of time, (how long has also not been specified) the volunteers who used cell phones were less predisposed to volunteering for community service, which the researchers suggested doing subsequently.
The researchers have not yet reported on how the cellphones were used, or how long it took for the decreased predisposition. Mere usage of the device did not stop there: these volunteers became even more selfish after they were asked to draw their cell phones and think about how they used them.
While one is using a cell phone, one’s brain is tricked into thinking that it is socializing with a person rather than with a machine. This illusion effectively hampers one’s social behavior with actual people. “The cell phone directly evokes feelings of connectivity to others,” Ferraro explained, “thereby fulfilling the basic human need to belong.”
That said, cell phones may become man’s new best friend, and could even act as a substitute for personal connections with other people. Though who can really know for sure?
The study further proved that the cell phone users had difficulty focusing. In spite of an incentive, which was knowing that correct answers led to money donated to charity, they could not concentrate on given word problems. It is interesting to note that in one of the tests distinguished users of social media, such as Facebook, felt slightly more connected with others than those who were not.
As it turns out, “participants felt more connected to others because of their cellphones than because of their Facebook accounts, suggesting that this difference in connectedness was the underlying driver of the observed phenomenon.” Pochptsova, Ferraro, and Abraham will publish a more detailed account of their findings in their work-in-progress paper, The Effect of Mobile Phone Use on Prosocial Behavior.