Mobile phone use is socially contagious: study

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What is the chance that you’ll catch a cold when your better half has it? It turns out the same possibilities also exist for mobile phone use. A research conducted at the University of Michigan (U-M) revealed that there is a good chance that people will use their mobile phones to check messages or email if somebody they are with is doing the same thing.

It sounds a bit hard to believe but the research has proven this is true based on observations of students in coffee shops and dining halls around the university from January to April 2011. Student pairs were unobtrusively observed for up to 20 minutes and their mobile phone use was documented at 10-second intervals.

Ultimately, the study discovered that 24 per cent of a student’s time with a friend was spent using a mobile phone. If one of the students used a mobile phone within a 10-second interval, in the succeeding interval there is a 39.5 per cent chance that his companion will do the same thing.

Although some of the observed students were anticipating e-mails or messages, the contagious use occurred many times during a 15-minute interaction, said Daniel Kruger, a Researcher at U-M.

This repetitive trend could be due to the effects of social exclusion and inclusion. If one of the students is talking to someone on the phone, there is a chance that his companion will feel left out. In many cases, the companion will want to contact other people on the phone so that he will not feel excluded.

Although convincing enough, the study’s findings may not hold true in other demographics such as older adults who do not live within their mobile phones.

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