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Studies show cell phones a wedge in interpersonal relations

Posted by / September 4, 2012


We all know the awkward feeling of conversing with someone who keeps checking their phone, but even if the phone is sitting on a nearby table, it’s very presence seems to have the ability to distract us from the connections at hand.

In a series of studies out of the University of Essex, Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein tested how strangers’ interactions were affected by the presence or non-presence of a cell phone. When their topic of conversation was casual, the effect was nonexistent, but when things got more personal, individuals reported feeling less connected with a cell phone in the room than a notebook.

Thus, interacting in a neutral environment, without a cell phone nearby, seems to help foster closeness, connectedness, interpersonal trust, and perceptions of empathy — the building-blocks of relationships. Past studies have suggested that because of the many social, instrumental, and entertainment options phones afford us, they often divert our attention from our current environment, whether we are speeding down a highway or sitting through a meeting. The new research suggests that cell phones may serve as a reminder of the wider network to which we could connect, inhibiting our ability to connect with the people right next to us. Cell phone usage may even reduce our social consciousness.

So, next time you’re looking to have a heart-to-heart or forge a new relationship, leave the phone behind; you might just find yourself with a new friend not of the Facebook variety.

Full story at Scientific American.

Cell phones and relationships.

Photo credit: Fotolia

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