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Battle of the sexes: How long do we wait before we reach for our phones?

Mon, 4th Jul 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

It's the common conundrum. When you're out with friends, workmates or waiting for an appointment, you have that insatiable urge to check your phone.

The Universities of Würzburg and Nottingham-Trent, in conjunction with Kaspersky Lab, found that most of us last less than 60 seconds before we reach for our phone.

The study left participants in a waiting room for 10 minutes. Women lasted 57 seconds while men lasted a mere 21 seconds. Participants used their phone for five minutes, almost half the waiting time.

When participants were asked how long they lasted before reaching their phone, most guessed 2-3 minutes, which the study says highlights the difference between perception and behaviour.

Kaspersky Lab research explains that people are heavily reliant on mobile devices because they are tools and extensions of our brains, so we don't have to remember facts. The research found that most respondents could remember their childhood phone number, but few could remember their current partner's phone number.

“The experiment suggests that people are far more attached to these devices than they realise and it has become second nature to turn to our smartphones when left alone with them. We do not just wait anymore. The immediacy of information and interactions delivered through our smart devices make them much more of a digital companion and connection to the outside world than a piece of technology,” says Jens Binder from the University of Nottingham Trent.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) could be a big part of this and in fact cause people to check their phones more, according to other research done by the universities.

“The more participants use their phone the more they are afraid they're missing out when they aren't accessing it. It is difficult to say which attribute fuels which – do people use their phone more because they are afraid of missing something, or is it because they use it so much that they worry they are missing out,” says Astrid Carolus, University of Würzburg.

Alarmingly, increased phone usage increases our stress levels, but apparently not our happiness levels. The study says although we suffer increased stress, we don't seem to be any less happy.

“Smartphones are an integral part of our lives today, but we need to remember that they are a commodity that people often take for granted. Having them around all the time often makes us forget how valuable they actually are because of the personal memories and other data they hold”, adds David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

“These are not only valuable and precious to us, but also to criminals. If our personal information was to become compromised in any way, either from theft or a malware attack, we would risk losing our connection to friends and sources of information,” Emm concludes.

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