Separation from your phone makes you stressed within minutes

In our study made in 2016 we investigated adults’ attachment to their mobile phones and found that after a few minute of separation from their phone, people’s behavior and heart rate changed in a way that was indicative of stress even if they consciously didn’t admit to be nervous.

We investigated university students whose behavior and heart rate was recorded during the experiment. From half of the participants we asked for their mobile (with a believable reason) and put in a cupboard in the test room, while the rest of the participants could keep their phones.

Afterwards, we left the participants alone for 3 minutes while they were allowed to do anything in the room. Besides the video recording and heart rate measurement, we also measured participants’ stress level and emotions by questionnaires and computerized tests.

While students who were separated from their mobile did not report increased stress level in the questionnaire, their behavior and heart rate showed the opposite. They approached the cupboard (where their mobile was put) more frequently, than other participants, which suggests that they searched for the closeness of their phone- which is a hallmark of attachment. They also showed more embarrassment behavior, and their heart rate pattern was indicative of psychological stress- so they showed the other characteristics of attachment: separation stress.

ETAL 2017

Additionally, in the computerized task separated individuals reacted more intensely to words associated with loneliness, which shows that individuals who were separated from their mobiles became lonelier.

This is the first study which showed on the behavioral level that people show attachment to their mobiles- similar attachment as we show towards other people. The original publication can be read here.