The unexpected social consequences of diverting attention to our phones

Elyssa M. Barrick, Alixandra Barasch, Diana I. Tamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Phone use is everywhere. Previous work has shown that phone use during social experiences, or “phubbing”, has detrimental effects on cognitive processing, well-being, and relationships. In this work, we first replicate this by showing the negative effects of phone use on relationships during both controlled and naturalistic social experiences. In Study 1, participants that were randomly assigned to complete a task with a confederate who used their phone part of the time reported lower feelings of social connection and engagement than participants paired with a partner who did not use their phone at all. In Study 2, dyads in a park completed a survey about their experience of the day. Participants reported that increased phone use resulted in lower feelings of social connection, enjoyment, and engagement in the experience. If the negative effects of phone use are so obvious, why do people continue to phub their friends? Studies 3 and 4 demonstrate that people accurately intuit the effects of others' phone use on experiences, but fail to recognize the effects of their own phone use. Study 4 explains this phubbing blindspot by demonstrating an actor-observer bias – people attribute their own phone use to positive motives and overestimate their ability to multitask compared to others. Together these findings suggest that while people are aware of the harmful effects of another person's phone use in social situations, they may fail to recognize the negative consequences of their own use because they mispredict the positive contributions of their phone use to the experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104344
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Phubbing
  • Relationships
  • Smartphones
  • Social interaction


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