Can Being Apart from Your iPhone Cause Separation Anxiety?

hands holding iphoneSome people may feel it’s more appropriate to leave their smart phone behind when attending an important function. The thinking behind this is that it will prevent them from being distracted during a time when they should otherwise be focusing on something else. However, they may actually be causing themselves to be more distracted by not having their phone with them. New research conducted by a Midwestern University suggests that separation from one’s iPhone can actually contribute to impaired cognitive performance and a type of physiological anxiety.

How The Research Was Conducted

The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication recently published a study that focused on how being separated from the iPhone affected users cognitively, emotionally, and physiologically. For the study, 40 iPhone users who were attending courses in journalism were asked to work on a puzzle while sitting in a cubicle with their iPhone present. After this task was completed, the same participants were then asked to work on a second puzzle. The difference was that this time, the iPhone users were told that their phones were causing interference with Bluetooth and told that the phone would need to be placed in a different spot within the room, away from them.

As The Experiment Progressed

As the participants continued to attempt to concentrate on their puzzle tasks without the latest technology at their fingertips, researchers then called their iPhone. As the owners of the phones continued to hear and see their ringing phones without being able to answer them, their heart rates and blood pressure were monitored. Not only did both blood pressure and heart rates increase, which indicates an increase in the level of anxiety, their ability to complete the puzzle also diminished. This led researchers to believe that this is why so many people choose to keep their phones handy and readily available during everyday situations which require focus and attention. It is thought that being apart from the iPhone can create feelings of anxiety that users would rather avoid.

Limitations Of This Research

Due to the fact that not only were iPhone users separated from their phones during the study, the phones were also ringing while they were prevented from answering it. So we know that a ringing phone out of the user’s reach can certainly cause anxiety related reactions. However, what we don’t know is to what extent that the ringing of the phone added to anxiety levels compared to what the anxiety levels may have been had the phone been sitting quietly.

To carry or not to carry your phone at all times? Most people feel you should carry your phone with you at all times, but recommend turning it to silent mode when performing tasks that require great focus and attention such as taking tests, work meetings, etc..This will provide the security of having your phone with you, but still minimize any distractions it could potentially cause.

[Image credit: Mayu, Flickr]

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