How smart phones affect skin conductance and social support networks among students at The University of Alabama
Although smart phone technology has been around several years, researchers are just now beginning to understand the impact of constantly being linked in to a network of information exchanges between and among users. Because smart phone technology has become commonplace in many developed nations such as the United States, the need to identify and observe its biological, social, and cultural impact is crucial. This investigation offers a benchmark analysis of users' perceptions of their own attachment to their smart phone devices, as well as to what extent this attachment can be measured through sympathetic nervous system response. Using skin conductance as a biomarker and a series of interviews including Cohen's Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL), it was determined that users do self-report a strong attachment to their devices. However, this attachment was not able to be captured through strict observation of skin conductance response alone during an experimental challenge when a text message was received. Rather, skin conductance level coupled with informants' interview responses yielded positive correlations between feeling anxious when the device is not nearby and with a perception that having a smart phone has dramatically changed the users' lives. Using the Kruskal-Wallis test as a non-parametric proxy for an Analysis of Variance, a significant association between the "anxious" statement and a high appraisal score on Cohen's ISEL was also determined. Lastly, a smaller group of informants underwent experience sampling interviews three times a week for seven days. Five categories of smart phone use were determined: Social Media and Photo Sharing, News and Information, Organization, Entertainment, and Communication. Smart phone use throughout the week varied among the sample. This study is a contribution to a small but growing body of literature on the biological, social, and cultural impacts of habitual smart phone use. It is hoped that researchers will benefit from this research by expanding on the observations made in this investigation in order to better understand the aggregate impact of technology on daily life.