Study: Smartphone Notifications Don’t Distract Us, We Distract Ourselves

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 04: Visitors try out the Honor 7 smartphone at the Huawei stand at the 2015 IFA consumer electronics and appliances trade fair on September 4, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The 2015 IFA will be open to the public from September 4-9. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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A recent study has found that users initiate 89 percent of all smartphone interactions on their own, with only 11 percent being initiated by a notification. These results go against the conventional wisdom that the mountain of notifications generated on the average person’s phone every day distracts us from other tasks.

Psych News Daily reports that a recent study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior on November 21 claims that 89 percent of smartphone interactions are initiated by users while only 11 percent are initiated by a notification.

The study states: “The perceived disruptiveness of smartphones is not mainly driven by external notifications, but by an urge of the user to interact with their phone that seems to occur in an almost automatic manner, just as a smoker would light a cigarette.”

The study followed the smartphone usage of people in the UK, Germany, and France. The average age of the subjects was 26 and just over half of the subjects were male. The study authors, Max Heitmayer and Saadi Lahlou, are both affiliated with the London School of Economics.

The subjects were equipped with a tiny camera called “subcams” which filmed the subject’s daily lives from a first-person perspective. The subjects recorded their behavior for a total of around five hours over a three-day period. The subjects could turn the camera off at any time and were allowed to delete any footage they wished.

The end result was around 200 hours of footage of user behavior in real-world environments. This totaled around 1,130 smartphone interactions that the researchers could analyze. The study found that the time between smartphone interactions was on average 291 seconds, meaning users were checking their phones around once every five minutes.

The researchers noted that many users felt compelled to check their devices even when they had notifications switched off. One subject stated: “Seeing this has made me realize that I don’t even remember picking it up.”

Read more at Psych News Daily here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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