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Why People Would Always Check Their Phones

Because of social media trends today,people mostly tend to check on their smartphones more often / Photo by: chainarong06 via Shutterstock

 

In today's tech-driven world, most people won't be able to get through an hour without pulling their phones out of their pockets or picking it up from their desks to check if someone sent a message to them. These devices need to be within their reach just in case something comes up. Mobile phones provide many benefits such as sending and receiving instant messages as well as making or receiving calls, which could explain why people keep checking them.

However, this behavior seems to be done in a compulsively and reflexive way. According to Psychology Today, classical conditioning is one of the mechanisms that explain why people get a hold of their phones and disconnect from reality. Those compact, black-mirrored devices have become irresistible for its ability to access attention-grabbing content notifications in the form of news, entertainment, and social connections that compels people to look at when they hear their phones ring.

 


Classical conditioning, daily life, and smartphones

Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov was the first to describe classical conditioning as a type of associative learning. In his landmark research, he managed to train dogs to attribute the sound of a metronome, which many often mistake for a bell, with providing them of food. As Pavlov repeated the process of associating the trigger (the sound) with the presentation of food, the dogs were eventually observed to salivate at the sound of the metronome. Even just the sight of metronome would cause the animals' mouths to drool.

This process can also influence human behavior. Psychology Today wrote that once certain associations are established, people would respond reflexively to it. Although their behavior is influenced, humans would likely be unaware of it. An example of this is when people see the logo of a famous fast-food chain, may it be in a commercial, a poster, or a billboard, they are bound to feel the urge to buy something to it since that logo has become tightly associated with food.

In the case of smartphones, these handheld devices are attributed to the ways that people's psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness, making their connection with classical conditioning a powerful one. People connect with others and gain access to unlimited forms of information and entertainment. It is because of this repeated pairing that the ring or chime of a notification emitted by the device causes a reflexive response.

When people's smartphones have the same ringtone or notification sound with another person, and they hear that sound, they are likely to reach for their own phones. This illustrates classical conditioning in action. Just like the dogs in Pavlov's experiment, the sight of a smartphone can also cause a person to feel the urge to check theirs.

 


The uncalled problem

Because people have become conditioned to check their phones, this alertness takes away the attention from those that are in their presence and the things that they have to do. This could be partly explained by the classical conditioning processes.

Attention is a limited resource and part of that has been allocated to smartphones whenever they are in sight. Moreover, people are also unaware that allocate their attention to these devices. This leads to having less attention towards those in their presence or the task at hand. If this behavior is left unchecked, it may lead to phone addiction which, according to the Independent, could cause an imbalance in the brain.

In a study of people who were diagnosed with phone or internet addiction, findings showed that this addiction damages the brain function and causes a chemical imbalance that could lead to severe anxiety and tiredness. The researchers looked into the chemical makeup of the subjects' brains and measured the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that reduces signal speed in the brain.

Results showed that the ratio of GABA to another vital neurotransmitter was not at level point for those who have been diagnosed with a phone or internet addiction. The researchers said this imbalance could have deep effects on the subjects' brain functions.

 

A group of teenagers using their respective smartphones / Photo by: GaudiLab via Shutetrstock


Breaking the cycle

The classical conditioning that leads people to be glued to their smartphones is the root cause of obsession with technology. According to PsychCentral, this explains why people would end up wasting precious hours scrolling through their phone. The notifications they receive is a reward for the unwavering attention that they to their devices and boost the pleasure centers of the brain that tells them to reinforce this behavior. It is hard to withdraw from this behavior, however, there are ways that could help a person spend less of their time on their phones and more time to live their life.

one of these tips is to spot the triggers or take notice of mental and emotional states that causes one to compulsively reach for their phones. Being bored, procrastinating, or feeling uncomfortable are some of the high-intensity emotions that leads a person to be distracted. Being self-aware can help a person consider other ways on how to deal with situations that cause these emotions.

Another is defining the boundaries around technology. Creating proactive guidelines that tells one on when and why they have to use their device can help people free themselves from being a slave of a small, handheld device.

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