Home » News » Cell Phones May Limit Altruism

Cell Phones May Limit Altruism

Cell Phones May Limit AltruismNew research suggests that while cell phones are thought of as devices that connect people, in reality, their use may disrupt community involvement and make users less socially minded.

University of Maryland researchers Drs. Anastasiya Pocheptsova and Rosellina Ferraro conducted a series of experiments on test groups of cell phone users and found that mobile phone use influences pro-social behavior — actions intended to benefit another person or society as a whole. Such behaviors are more commonly referred to as altruism.

The study found that after a short period of cell phone use the subjects were less inclined to volunteer for a community service activity when asked, compared to the control-group counterparts.

The cell phone users were also less persistent in solving word problems — even though they knew their answers would translate to a monetary donation to charity.

Researchers discovered the decreased focus on others held true even when participants were merely asked to draw a picture of their cell phones and think about how they used them.

In the study, separate sets of college student subjects, both men and women and generally in their early 20s, were followed.

“We would expect a similar pattern of effects with people from other age groups,” said Ferraro. “Given the increasing pervasiveness of cell phones, it does have the potential to have broad social implications.”

The authors believe their findings agree with previous research that found cell phones help an individual connect to others, thereby fulfilling the basic human need to belong. Since the need to belong is satisfied, the motivation to further connect with others or to engage in empathic and procsocial behavior is reduced.

The study also compared cell phone users to those that used Facebook. Researchers discovered participants felt more connected to others because of their cell phones than because of their Facebook accounts.

This association suggests the perception of connectedness is the underlying driver of the observed phenomenon.

Source: University of Maryland

Cell Phones May Limit Altruism

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Cell Phones May Limit Altruism. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.