Study Shows Impact of Cell Phone Separation On Physical, Mental State

Thursday, April 14th 2016, 11:04 pm
By: News 9

Even grown-ups need a security blanket at times to feel and perform their best. And for a new generation of adults, that security blanket is their smartphone. A recent study shows us just how much some of us depend on this technology.

"People think of them as an extended self, and when they don't have them, they feel like something's missing," said Glenn Leshner, OU professor and Edward L. Thelma Gaylord Chair.

With this in mind, Leshner and his colleagues wanted to see if this feeling of loss actually caused physical anxiety and mental stress.

"What's surprising to me is how clear and consistent the results were," Leshner said.

In a cell phone separation study, researchers tested 40 people with iPhones.

We had Leshner re-enact the experiment using Matthew, a News 9 producer, who knew nothing about what we were doing. First, Leshner told Matthew he was testing a new blood pressure cuff. He then put the cuff on Matthew, and had him do a simple timed word search puzzle. During the five minutes he was to do the puzzle, and after the five minute puzzle were up, Leshner measured Matthew's blood pressure and heart rate to get a baseline reading.

Also, after the five minutes were up, Leshner told Matthew his cell phone was interfering with the readings. So, he moved the phone four feet away from Matthew and then asked him to take the test again. Leshner then called the phone - allowing it to ring for about 20 seconds.

You can see on the camera, Matthew becomes a bit distracted by the ringing and wants to answer the phone, but doesn't.

"It was sort of a reminder that they don't have their phone," Leshner said.

Participants found on average nine words when they had their phone, and only six when their phone was taken away. For Matthew it was the deliberate distraction that confused him.

"I forgot where I was immediately when I sat back down, I don't even know if I found another one after I came back," Matthew said.

Leshner said in their initial study, the results were surprising.

"When they didn't have the cell phone and it rang, their blood pressure went up, their heart rate went up, their self-report of anxiety went up and the performance on this task went down," he said.

And when they had them? Leshner said, "Everything was much better, their heart rate was lower, their blood pressure was lower, their reported anxiety was lower and the performance on the test went up."

In our simulated experiment, Matthew's levels, though, remained the same.

"When he took the phone away, I just thought it was too close to the cuff," Matthew said.

However, Leshner says the results are a telling example of just how much people depend on their cell phones.

"These communication technologies especially something as personal as a phone become parts of selves," Leshner said.

If you're wondering how Leshner knew Matthew's cell number, he had him fill out a waiver before he took the test.

Click here for more on the actual study