A study done at California State University, Dominguez Hills suggests that separation anxiety from your phone is real. Nancy A. Cheever and her research team from the Department of Communications and the Department of Psychology examined how the consistent use of wireless mobile devices (WMDs, which include smartphones, laptops, tablets, and any other wireless mobile device) may be a form of psychological dependency. Findings from this study suggest that separation from phones and other wireless devices elicits and worsens anxiety.

The Experiment: Phone Use And Anxiety

Previous research yielded conflicting results on the relationship between WMDs and anxiety. Some studies suggest that long periods of separation from your phone induce anxiety. Others claim that WMD's might be an effective way to ease anxiety. In this experiment, Cheever's primary goals were to clarify the relationship between WMD's and anxiety, and examine the psychological impact of WMDs on students.

The experiment was set in a large lecture hall without any windows or clocks, and with just the researcher lecturing. Students were divided into two groups: one group had their phones confiscated, and one group was allowed to keep their phones with them, but it had to silenced and out of sight. All students were assigned a problem set to work on for the duration of the lecture.

The students answered a short survey during the last 15 minutes of the experiment to determine how heavily they used their mobile devices. On average, students reported using their mobile devices for 13.58 hours per day.

With this setup, Cheever tested these three hypotheses:

  • Whether their WMD was taken away, or willingly silenced and put away, all participants should show increased anxiety as time passed.
  • Participants without their WMD would feel significantly more anxious than those with.
  • Participants labeled as heavy users of WMDs would be more anxious than light users.

The Results

Students knew that their devices would be returned to them at the end of lecture, but still showed intensifying anxiety as time progressed. Regardless of where their phones were, confiscated or put away in backpacks, all participants showed increased in anxiety over time. This suggests all of those with WMDs have some degree of psychological dependence.

The results also showed that heavy users were significantly more anxious than light users. It seems that heavy WMD use and anxiety share a positive relationship. The more you use your phones, the more you depend on it.


Source: Science Direct

Journal Reference:

Nancy A. Cheever, Larry D. Rosen, L. Mark Carrier, Amber Chavez. Out of sight is not out of mind: The impact of restricting wireless mobile device use on anxiety levels among low, moderate, and high users. Computers in Human Behavior 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.002

Date of original publication:
Updated on: October 23, 2015

Sources

Science Direct

Nancy A. Cheever, Larry D. Rosen, L. Mark Carrier, Amber Chavez. Out of sight is not out of mind: The impact of restricting wireless mobile device use on anxiety levels among low, moderate, and high users. Computers in Human Behavior 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.002

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