Smartphone apps are rewarding, but do not hijack your mind
Many people experience their smartphones as temptations, especially smartphone apps. In other words, smartphone apps might be rewarding and have the potential to distract. A study in Collabra: Psychology investigates how rewarding people find social smartphone apps like Facebook and if these apps ask for attention. It turns out that socially rewarding apps are not that distracting after all.
- People find social smartphone apps rewarding, but are not distracted by them when performing a task.
Study 1: 117 Dutch smartphone users (mean age: 21, age range: 18-25, 91% female)
Study 2: 158 British smartphone users (mean age: 22, age range: 18-25, 70% female)
The Netherlands and UK
In Study 1 smartphone users handed in their smartphones one hour before or started immediately with a computer task. In this attention task, they were distracted by app icons that were either rewarding (for example, a Facebook icon with notification sign) or neutral (for example, a calculator). The researchers measured their performance in the task.
In Study 2, participants filled out an online questionnaire, in which they rated different app icons on how rewarding they were (that is, how much they liked them and felt the need to use them).
Facts and findings
- Participants thought social smartphone apps were more rewarding than neutral apps.
- However, participants who saw rewarding app icons performed just as well on the task as participants who saw neutral app icons.
- Participants who first handed in their smartphones performed better on the task.
- Important fact: Because participants did the computer task in a lab and the app icons were taken out of their normal daily context, the perceived rewarding value of apps (and performance of participants) could be different than in the ‘real world’.