My Topics

28 January 2019

Receiving An SMS Feels Distracting, But Does Not Lead To Worse Performance

A lot of people are concerned that smartphones are constantly interrupting us, for example with WhatsApp notifications. But what happens if we don’t immediately check our phone after receiving a message? This experiment in Journal of Media Psychology investigated whether receiving an SMS, or just the presence of a smartphone, impairs our performance.

Take aways

  • People say that smartphone notifications are distracting, but notifications do not lead to worse performance. 
  • We might be good at ignoring our phone, as long as we are not allowed to use it.

Study information

  • Who?

    154 university students (age range 18-29 years, 73% female)

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    Smartphone users came to the lab and were not allowed to touch their phones during the experiment. They then did a computer task measuring performance. At the beginning of the task, one group received an SMS, but was not allowed to check their phone. 

Facts and findings

  • Participants reported they were very distracted by their phones, but they were not worse at performing the computer task than participants who did not receive an SMS.