Differences in Spatial Memory Between Chronic vs. Normative Smartphone Users and Texting Distractions

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University of Alabama Libraries

Excessive smartphone usage affects daily life (i.e., interpersonal relationships, sleeping patterns, exercise, and physical health). With frequent phone use on the rise, researchers have developed several ways to distinguish normative phone use from unhealthy and problematic phone use. Also, research has found that relying on an external source of information, such as a GPS has resulted in a decrement of spatial ability and spatial memory. However, most individuals use their smartphones to access a GPS. By having their smartphone readily available, they might also be prone to experiencing other smartphone-related distractions from social media apps that further decrease attention and subsequent spatial and memory abilities. This study hypothesized that both chronic smartphone usage and short-term (in the moment) smartphone usage have independent and compounding influences on cognitive functions in daily life; specifically, remembering details about a route travelled. This study had two aims. The first was to investigate the extent to which both chronic and short-term social media usage negatively affects episodic and location memory for environmental landmarks. The second was to understand whether individual differences related to smartphone use would better predict memory than short-term distractions. Chronic smartphone use did not have an effect on episodic or location memory for environmental landmarks. However, the level of distractions did have an adverse effect on location memory, but no effect on episodic memory. Lastly, none of the possible underlying mechanisms predicted the relation between level of distractions and location memory.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Chronic Smartphone Use, Smartphone Addiction, Spatial Memory