Smartphone users are more addicted to their devices than they think, a new study suggests.
According to a recently published report in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, people are most addicted to "checking habits" associated with their phones – such as repetitive checks of the menu screen, news, email and social apps – and this is triggered by outside situations or behaviors that enable the habit.
A typical checking lasts less than 30 seconds and involves opening the screen lock and accessing a single application, the report said.
But these kinds of checking don't happen as randomly as one would think. A small set of contexts trigger smartphone users to check their devices such as reading email when commuting or checking news while bored.
The report also said that checking habits may further grow in the future, as informational "rewards" are added to smartphones. For example, when a phone's contact book app is linked with real-time information about a contact's whereabouts, users start regularly checking the application. As more apps offer real-time updates, people will continue to check devices for updates.
"What concerns us here is that if your habitual response to, say, boredom, is that you pick up the phone to find interesting stimuli, you will be systematically distracted from the more important things happening around you," said Antti Oulasvirta, senior research at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology. "Habits are automatically triggered behaviors and compromise the more conscious control that some situations require."
"Studies are already starting to associate smartphone use to dire consequences such as driving accidents and poor work-life balance and unfortunately, as decades of work in psychology shows, habits are not easy to change," he said.