You might think you’re being discreet when, during the briefest lull in a social gathering, you slip your phone halfway out of your pocket and start scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.
But people notice — and they may use that behaviour to make judgments about your personality.
As it turns out, some recent scientific research suggests that it is possible to draw inferences about someone’s personality based on his relationship to his phone. Specifically, emotionally unstable individuals are more likely to constantly check their phones in an effort to boost their moods.
For the study, led by James A. Roberts, Ph.D., at Baylor University, researchers asked 346 college students to complete both a personality assessment and a questionnaire designed to measure whether they were addicted to their cell phones. For the addiction questionnaire, the participants were asked to indicate how much they agreed with statements such as “I get agitated when my cell phone is not in sight” and “I spend more time than I should on my cell phone.”
Results showed that emotional instability was a key predictor of cell phone addiction.
“Incessant checking of emails, sending texts, tweeting, and surfing the web may act as pacifiers for the unstable individual distracting him or herself from the worries of the day and providing solace, albeit temporary, from such concerns,” the authors write.
The study also found that introverts — people who expressed feelings of shyness and bashfulness — were less likely to be addicted to their phones. The study authors say that’s possibly because other research has found that “a sense of being connected” is the most important motivator of cell phone use, and introverts may have less of a desire for round-the-clock socialisation.
Given that cell phones are so often used in public, it’s of little surprise that materialism was another personality trait that was associated with cell phone addiction.
Perhaps even less surprising, the researchers found that impulsive individuals, or those who have a hard time concentrating on the task at hand, were more likely to be addicted to their cell phones.
Of course, this research hardly implies that you need to panic about being emotionally unstable the next time you find yourself scrolling through emails while waiting on line at the drugstore. But these findings could pave the way for future studies on the relatively unexplored link between cell phone use and personality, giving researchers and clinicians another tool by which to understand people’s inner experience.
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