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Cell phones a distraction even when not in use

According to the New York Daily News, a cell phone is not necessarily a good thing in every possible context, mainly because it can interfere with social relationships.  Phones have this effect even when individuals are not obsessing checking their email or sending out text messages.  Instead, the mere fact that a phone is in the room can have a negative impact on how other people perceive and interact with the phone owner.

Recent research conducted at the University of Essex on this topic involved asking pairs of individuals to sit in private booths together.  The individuals involved were strangers.  In some cases, a cell phone that was not in use but was visible was placed in the booth with the pair under observation.  The study participants were then asked to discuss a personal anecdote for a short time, typically less than 10 minutes.

In cases where a cell phone was visible, the individuals reported feeling less involved in the ongoing discussion.  This led researchers to decide that ‘the mere presence’ of a cell phone can be a distraction that helps to keep people apart.  Other studies have noted that couples eating meals together are often more apart than together in a mental sense due to the fact that one or both of them may be checking constantly for incoming messages from other parties.

It seems, therefore, that even though cell phones are very useful, there is a time and a place to switch them off and put them out of sight.