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Cellphone use linked to selfish behavior

Date:
February 14, 2012
Source:
University of Maryland
Summary:
Though cellphones are usually considered devices that connect people, they may make users less socially minded, finds a recent study. The researchers found that after a short period of cellphone use subjects were less inclined to volunteer for community service when asked, compared to control-group counterparts. Talking on a cell phone reduces the desire to connect with others, they explain.

Talking on the cell phone may reduce the desire to connect with others, say Smith School Researchers.
Credit: John Consoli/UMD

Though cellphones are usually considered devices that connect people, they may make users less socially minded, finds a recent study from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Marketing professors Anastasiya Pocheptsova and Rosellina Ferraro, with graduate student, Ajay T. Abraham, conducted a series of experiments on test groups of cellphone users. The findings appear in their working paper, "The Effect of Mobile Phone Use on Prosocial Behavior."

Prosocial behavior, as defined in the study, is action intended to benefit another person or society as a whole.

The researchers found that after a short period of cellphone use the subjects were less inclined to volunteer for a community service activity when asked, compared to the control-group counterparts. The cell phone users were also less persistent in solving word problems -- even though they knew their answers would translate to a monetary donation to charity.

The decreased focus on others held true even when participants were merely asked to draw a picture of their cellphones and think about how they used them.

The study involved separate sets of college student subjects -- both men and women and generally in their early 20s. "We would expect a similar pattern of effects with people from other age groups," said Ferraro. "Given the increasing pervasiveness of cellphones, it does have the potential to have broad social implications."

The authors cited previous research in explaining a root cause of their findings: "The cellphone directly evokes feelings of connectivity to others, thereby fulfilling the basic human need to belong." This results in reducing one's desire to connect with others or to engage in empathic and prosocial behavior.

The study also distinguished its subjects from users of other social media -- Facebook users -- in one of the tests. The authors found that 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.

Related investigation involves the authors studying the effects of using other types of technology on prosocial behavior.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Maryland. "Cellphone use linked to selfish behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214122038.htm>.
University of Maryland. (2012, February 14). Cellphone use linked to selfish behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214122038.htm
University of Maryland. "Cellphone use linked to selfish behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214122038.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

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