Smartphone use is habitual says a study by Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT and Intel Labs. Smartphone users, however, don't think it's addictive but just annoying.
Researchers are concerned that smartphone habitual use is distracting from more important things around users, such as driving or work/life balance.
Unfortunately smartphones are a hard habit to break. Increasing functionality of smartphone apps increases smartphone habitual use. The main habit smartphone users develop is checking constantly.
- When smartphone users check their smartphone they usually check the menu screen, news, email, contacts, and social networking. A typical checking lasts less than 30 seconds and involves opening the screenlock and accessing a single application.
- The researchers were surprised to find users engaging in checking behaviors throughout the waking hours.
- A large proportion of smartphone use consists solely of checkings that are associated with a small set of contexts that trigger them, such as reading email when commuting or checking news while bored.
The paper argues thatj informational rewards can lead to habitual behaviors if they are very quickly accessible. In a field experiment, when the phone's contact book application was augmented with real-time information about contacts' whereabouts and doings, users started regularly checking the application.
The researchers also observed that habit-formation for one application may increase habit-formation for related applications.
By making interesting content quickly accessible, developers are making the device more useful while the habits that emerge take more and more of a person's free time.
The researchers were concerned that if a habitual response to, say, boredom, is that to pick up the phone to find interesting stimuli, it will distract the smartphone user from more important things happening around them.
Habits are automatically triggered behaviors and compromise the more conscious control that some situations require and studies are already starting to associate smartphone use to dire consequences like driving accidents and poor work-life balance. Unfortunately, as decades of work in psychology shows, habits are not easy to change reported Antti Oulasvirta, of HIIT,.
The study, titled "Habits Make Smartphone Use More Pervasive," is published in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. The authors are Antti Oulasvirta (HIIT), Tye Rattenbury (Intel Labs), Lingyi Ma (HIIT), and Eeva Raita (HIIT).