How did ignoring people for our smartphones become the norm?

June 07, 2016

It's common now to see people snubbing social companions to concentrate on their smartphone. But what causes this behaviour - known as 'phubbing' - and how did it come to be regarded as normal?

Research from psychologists at the University of Kent suggests people's internet addiction is leading them increasingly to 'phub' - and experience being 'phubbed' - in social situations. This, in turn, leads them to view this phubbing behaviour as normal.

The research, by Varoth Chotpitayasunondh and Professor Karen Douglas from the University's School of Psychology, identified a number of factors that were linked to smartphone addiction. These were internet addiction, a fear of missing out and a lack of self-control.

This smartphone addiction, in turn, was directly linked to people demonstrating phubbing behaviour. The researchers further found that it was this experience of phubbing - and of being phubbed themselves - that made people more likely to think that phubbing was 'normal' behaviour.

The research, thought to be the first to consider both the causes and consequences of this modern-day phenomena, is likely to lead to further investigations of the impact of phubbing on the quality of social interaction.

It is published as How "phubbing" becomes the norm: The antecedents and consequences of snubbing via smartphone in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour. See paper here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074756321630345
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For further information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879
Email: M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk
News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news
University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Note to editors

1. For the purposes of the present research, a "phubber" may be defined as a person who starts snubbing someone in a social situation by paying attention to his/her smartphone instead, and a "phubbee" may be defined as a person who is ignored by his/her companion(s) in a social situation because his/her companion(s) uses or check their smartphones instead.

2. Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

University of Kent

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