Mobile phones may make people selfish

Although intended to make people better connected, mobile phones may be making users less socially-minded. According to a recent study from the University of Maryland's Robert H Smith School of Business using these devices makes people less inclined to be generous with their time.

Marketing Professors Anastasiya Pocheptsova, Roselina Ferraro and graduate student Ajay Abraham found that studies of individuals who used these handsets for even a short period were less likely to volunteer for a community project and were not as persistent when given word puzzles to solve.

This loss of focus was also apparent when the people involved in the study were asked to draw a picture of their mobiles and think about how they use them.

The researchers who compiled The Effect of Mobile Phone Use on Prosocial Behaviour report concluded that such gadgets do have the potential to have "broad social implications".

George Fieldman, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "The advent of mobile phones, especially smart phones, has brought numerous advantages. It enables us to keep better connected to people who are known to us - but at the expense of those in front of us. This very interesting study illustrates that mobile phones may also encourage selfishness. 

"The attention of someone with a mobile phone can be instantly withdrawn from their immediate environment, depriving both the phone user and those around them of social involvement. This distraction from people in the phone user's vicinity accords with more selfish behaviour. 

"All mobile phones provide, essentially, 'narrow band' communications, compared with the 3D, stereo, full-colour, high resolution, real-time experience of talking to someone face-to-face. It's partly because of this, that when the phone rings, one has to pay it full attention to compensate for the comparatively hesitating information flow. 

"Social anxiety may also be heightened by mobile phones. This is because people can avoid full social contact, by means of texting and e-mail. Avoidance is fundamental to the maintenance of anxiety. People experiencing anxiety may also be less empathic, so enhancing selfish attitudes."