The phone walkers: a study of human dependence on inactive mobile devices

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60647, USA

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Abstract

The development of mobile phones has largely increased human interactions. Whilst the use of these devices for communication has received significant attention, there has been little analysis of more passive interactions. Through census data on casual social groups, this work suggests a clear pattern of mobile phones being carried in people’s hands, without the person using it (that is, not looking at it). Moreover, this study suggests that when individuals join members of the opposite sex there is a clear tendency to stop holding mobile phones whilst walking. Although it is not clear why people hold their phones whilst walking in such large proportions (38% of solitary women, and 31% of solitary men), we highlight several possible explanation for holding the device, including the need to advertise status and affluence, to maintain immediate connection with friends and family, and to mitigate feelings related to anxiety and security.

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