A quick online search throws up many articles suggesting that people are “glued” to their phone and therefore miss important and enriching experiences and interactions going on around them.
Here’s research on four things you can’t do properly while on your smartphone:
1) Notice hazards when driving
Drivers using a hands-free phone are far less likely to notice and react to hazards, even those directly ahead of them. This leads to increased stopping distances and a four-fold increase in accident risk. Research suggests this inattention blindness is produced by the need to share limited mental resources between tasks.
Phone conversations have a visual component – you picture where your conversation partner is and what they are saying – and this mental imagery draws on resources which are needed for accurate visual perception. Consequently, someone on the phone can look at, but not see, a hazard.
2) Cross the road safely
Pedestrians talking on the phone are more likely to be injured crossing the road. They tend to take longer to decide to cross, and then walk more slowly. They also make more unsafe judgements on crossings.
In one study, phone-users successfully crossed a simulated street only 84% of the time. Compared with other distractions, including listening to music, phone use is associated with poorer decision-making, missed opportunities to cross and increased likelihood of being involved in a collision.
3) Take the most direct route
Phone-users may change the way they walk, which in turn affects the route they take and what they notice around them. One observational study found that people talking on their phones were more likely to change the direction they were walking in, were less likely to be aware of other people around them, resulting in them getting in other people’s way, and tended to walk more slowly than people who were either listening to music or undistracted.
Another study looked at participants’ gait while walking to a previously learned destination. Compared to undistracted walkers, phone users walked slower and made more lateral deviations from the set route, meaning they walked further than needed.
4) Notice advertisements you pass
Phone-users are less likely to recall seeing advertisements that they have passed. Research has shown that even though people distracted by a phone conversation look at advertisements as often as those who are not using phones, they don’t remember them when later questioned.
Phone users are more likely to miss important and highly visible events – and crucially are often unaware of how unaware they may be.