Using a mobile phone is contagious

A new study has found that using a mobile phone is contagious.

Using mobile phones is contagious

Researchers concluded that a person was twice as likely to talk on a mobile, or check for messages, if a companion did the same.

The University of Michigan study discovered that checking a phone created an “alternative outlet” for a person’s attention.

It also found that females were more likely to use their mobile than men because it was more “integrated into the daily lives of women”.

“What we found most interesting was just how often people were using their mobile phones,” said Dr Daniel Kruger, the study’s co-author.

“Every person we observed used his/her phone at least once while one woman was on hers about half of the time.

“Individuals may see others checking their incoming messages and be prompted to check their own.”

He said the conclusions were a timely warning to people about mobile phone use.

Asked what this showed about society’s use of phones, Dr Kruger said: “We need to get smart about smart phones.

“They can be a wonderfully useful technology, but we need to use them more carefully to make sure that they do not interfere with our in person social interactions.”

In their study, students were observed “unobtrusively”, socialising near an unnamed university campus.

Dr Kruger, from the university’s School of Public Health, Population Studies Center and the Institute for Social Research, said the study found when one of a group used their mobile phone, their companions were more likely to follow shortly after.

“There is thus is a pattern of contagion or imitation,” he said, adding that this was generally repeated several times.

“We conducted this study as part of efforts to revitalise Human Ethology, or the observational study of real life behaviour.

“Some of this could be people being primed to check their e-mail or phone messages, but this contagious use was happening several times in a 15-minute interaction.”

Dr Kruger believes this pattern could be related to the effects of “social inclusion and exclusion”.

He added: “If one person in a pair engages in an external conversation through their phone, his or her companion may feel excluded.

“That companion then might be compelled to connect with others externally so as not to feel left out.”

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