Have you ever tried ignoring your phone when it rings? How does it make you feel leaving notifications unchecked? Is it easy to focus on what you’re doing when you don’t know who’s trying to get in touch?
Well, in 2015 a team of American researchers aimed to find out just that. They devised an experiment to work out how much of an effect your phone has on your ability to concentrate.
Participants were asked to complete a word search, and during this time their phone would ring in the cubicle next door - but they would be unable to answer it and they didn’t know how was calling. Crucially, the participants had been told that the study was designed to test a new blood pressure cuff and did not know that they were participating in a cell-phone related study - or that the researchers would be calling their phones during the experiment.
The participants heart and blood pressure were monitored, and they self-reported their levels of anxiety and feelings of unpleasantness. Their ability to concentrate was also measured by their performance on the word search.
The study found that when participants were unable to answer their phone during the task, their heart rate increased, as did their blood pressure. Participants also reported higher levels of anxiety and unpleasantness - and they performed less well on the word search.
The study concluded that being unable to answer their phone had resulted in negative outcomes both psychologically and physiologically.
In one situation, despite being instructed to stay seated throughout the experiment, one participant even got up from her chair to answer her phone.
Interestingly, these feelings were very much related to being separated from the ringing phone. The researchers wrote:
"...when participants completed word-search puzzles with their iPhone in their possession, heart rate and blood pressure levels returned to baseline and cognitive performance increased."
However it is important to note that the researchers did highlight the fact that the findings from the study may not be applicable to all demographics as most of the participants were college students.
We’ve blogged before about increased stress levels for phone checkers. In the 2017 report “Stress in America”, the American Psychological Association found that US adults who report that they constantly or often check their email, texts and social media accounts are significantly more stressed than those who don’t check them as frequently.
Smartphones are incredibly helpful in many different ways, but one of the reasons why we decided to add touch controls to doppel was so that you take a break from your phone if you want to. It might help you feel more calm and focused.
Co-written by Jenna Morshead from the Santander Universities SME Internships Programme and the doppel team