The mere presence of a mobile phone can make the meeting between two strangers more stilted, according to new research published in the May issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. LiveScience reports:
Cellphones don’t disrupt casual conversation much, the study found, but when people were asked to discuss something meaningful, they reported less trust, empathy and lower relationship quality when a cellphone was in the room.
“When people were having an important conversation, relationship quality was lower, and partner trust was lower and empathy was lower when the mobile phone was there,” he said.
The effect was noticeable even though the participants barely noticed the phone. Surveys given after the experiment suggested the students had no idea the research involved the phone, and most had to be prompted to report they’d even seen it.