How the mere presence of a mobile phone harms face-to-face conversations
You sit down for a chat with a new acquaintance but before you’re even started they’ve placed their phone carefully on the table in front of them. Why? Are they waiting for a call? Do they just enjoy marvelling at its chic plastic beauty? Either way, a new study suggests this familiar habit could be interfering with our attempts to socialise.
Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein asked 34 pairs of strangers to spend 10 minutes chatting to each
- The ones who’d chatted with a phone visible nearby, as opposed to a notebook, were less positive
- They also reported feeling less closely related to their conversational partner.
- For participants with the notebook visible nearby, having a more meaningful conversation (as opposed to a casual one) boosted their feelings of closeness and their trust in their conversational partner.
- But this extra intimacy was missing for the participants for whom a mobile phone was visible.
- When the researchers debriefed the participants afterwards they seemed to be unaware of the effects of the mobile phone, suggesting its adverse effects were at a non-conscious level.
…modern mobile phones might trigger in the mind automatic thoughts about wider social networks, which has the effect of crowding out face-to-face conversations. “These results indicate that mobile communication devices may, by their mere presence, paradoxically hold the potential to facilitate as well as to disrupt human bonding and intimacy.”