Friday, August 8, 2014

For a Better Chat, Ditch the Cell

It's official now: Virginia Tech researchers are telling us that the simple act of putting the cell phone out of sight can lead to real conversations among people who are looking at each other.

That's one of those obvious conclusions that didn't necessarily need the stamp of scientific legitimacy, but now it has it in any case, so you can quote it when you tell the kid to put away the cell.

Here's some of Tech's press release:

Can the mere presence of a mobile device during a face-to-face conversation affect the quality of social interaction? Absolutely, according to a study led by Shalina Misra, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech in the National Capital Region.

“The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices,” published in the current issue of the journal, Environment & Behavior, "examines the relationship between the presence of mobile devices and the quality of real-life in-person social interactions in third places through a naturalistic field experiment."

For the research, 100 two-person conversations were randomly assigned to discuss either a casual or meaningful topic together. A trained research assistant observed the participants from a distance during the course of a 10-minute conversation, noting whether either participant placed a mobile device on the table or held it in his hand.

Research found that even when not in active use or buzzing, beeping, ringing, or flashing, a mobile device represents a wider social network and a portal to an immense compendium of information. In the presence of mobile devices, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds.

The study showed that conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated as significantly superior compared with those in the presence of a mobile device, above and beyond the effects of age, gender, ethnicity, and mood.

People who had conversations in the absence of mobile devices reported higher levels of empathetic concern.

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