Does the device you use affect your behaviour?

It’s often the case that the items we have on us can have an impact on how we behave, even if we don’t realise.

For instance, our posture tends to improve when we’re wearing a smart suit. Similarly, we tend to carry ourselves in a more formal way if we’re holding an item such as a clipboard.

So could something similar be true when it comes to the gadgets we use day after day?

Well, a new study by City, University of London certainly suggests so.

Research published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found that a person’s moral decisions can be slightly different depending on the device they are using.

Specifically, the study showed if a person is presented with a dilemma on a PC, they tend to react more emotionally and use a more intuitive approach to solving a problem and making their decision.

By contrast, a person is more likely to react in a logical and more rational manner if they are presented with a moral quandary on a smartphone.

So why is this?

According to the research, this could be partly because smartphone users tend to be more focused on just one task than PC users.

Dr Albert Barque-Duran, the lead author of the study, commented: “What we found in our study is that when people used a smartphone to view classic moral problems, they were more likely to make more unemotional, rational decisions when presented with a highly emotional dilemma.

“This could be due to the increased time pressures often present with smartphones and also the increased psychological distance which can occur when we use such devices compared to PCs.”

Dr Barque-Duran went on to state that since many aspects of people’s lives, from work, shopping to managing social interactions, now take place online, it is important to look at how the contexts in which people face ethical decisions have changed.

The methodology behind the study was particularly interesting. Just over 1,000 people were presented with various scenarios, such as the so-called trolley problem.

This meant study participants were asked how they would deal with a runaway trolley heading towards five people tied up on a set of train tracks.

One option would be either to do nothing, which means the five people would die, or push a man off a bridge to stop the trolley.

More than a third of smartphone users went for the latter option, compared to just over a fifth of people using PCs.

Participants were also asked what they would do if they could pull a lever that would divert the trolley away but still meant one person would die.

Interestingly, there was less of a disparity with the answers this time round. 80.0 per cent of smartphone users opted to divert the trolley, along with 76.9 per cent of PC users.

But the original pattern was still evident, with smartphone users demonstrating they are more likely to make unemotional, rational and utilitarian solutions than people with PCs.

With the smartphone market evolving all the time, along with the wider consumer electronics sector, it will be fascinating to see if this continues to impact on how we behave and make decisions.

Written by Mazuma

Mazuma Mobile is the UK's most trusted mobile phone recycling service.

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