It doesn’t sound too crazy to assume that smartphone users feel empowered: that having all the resources of the internet at the touch of their fingers helps us feel connected, capable, and enabled to do whatever needs doing. A new Harvard study has us reconsidering that a little, and suggests that users of smaller, portable electronics like smartphones behave less assertively than users of larger, full-sized computers.
The study had users interact with phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, and then once they were done using the devices, left the subjects alone, measuring how long it would take before the users got up on their own and interrupted someone in order to learn what was going on.
Not only did fewer smartphone users ultimately interrupt someone, but when they did it took them the longest to do so. Looking at the four device classes, there does seem to be a correlation between size and assertiveness – desktop users both were the most willing to interrupt, and waited the shortest time before doing so.
The research itself focuses on the role of posture in governing behavior, so it looks less at the capabilities of these devices and more at how we use them – sitting upright and comfortable at a computer, or hunched over with a phone or tablet in our lap.
We’d be really curious to see this taken a little further and look at the subtler differences between phones and phablets – is there any appreciable change in behavior between, say, an iPhone user and a Galaxy Note II user?