smartphone wimp

Your Smartphone Makes You Wimpy, Says Harvard Business School Study

Is your smartphone turning you into a wimp? Is the hunched-over posture you assume to use your iPhone changing your behavior?

If you keep getting run over in meetings, the Harvard Business School has a study that’s just for you.

Maarten W. Bos and Amy J.C. Cuddy published a working paper last week called, iPosture: The Size of Electronic Consumer Devices Affects Our Behavior — and the results contain some bad news for people who prefer to work on smaller devices like iPhones and other smartphones:

“We examined whether incidental body posture, prompted by working on electronic devices of different sizes, affects power-related behaviors. Grounded in research showing that adopting expansive body postures increases psychological power, we hypothesized that working on larger devices, which forces people to physically expand, causes users to behave more assertively.”

The results weren’t any huge surprise.  Amy Cuddy has previously worked on other studies showing that people who adopted more expansive body postures tended to have increased testosterone levels (fueling aggression and assertiveness) and decreased cortisol levels (which would fuel stress).

As the HBS researchers expected, working on larger machines like a desktop computer caused people to behave more assertively than those wimps working on smartphones.

“People are always interacting with their smartphones before a meeting begins, thinking of it as an efficient way to manage their time,” Maarten Bos said in a HBS statement. “We wanted to study how interacting with a device affected how people behave afterward.”

In the new study, subjects were given iPod Touch, iPad tablet, MacBook Pro laptop, or iMac desktop computer. They were then given a task for which they were supposed to be paid a small sum.

The researcher then left the room on the pretext of getting some paperwork. The subjects were told to fetch the researcher after they’d waited five minutes. However, the researcher didn’t really return for a full ten minutes.

Then they tested to see how long the subjects would wait.

As they expected the desktop users were far more assertive, with 94 percent fetching the researcher instead of waiting. Only 50 percent of the iPod Touch users did so.

And the bigger the device, the shorter the time it took for subjects to become impatient. Desktop users waited 341 seconds — yes, they got sick of waiting only 41 seconds longer than the five minutes they’d been told to wait.

The wimpy iPod Touch users waited an average of 493 seconds before breaking down to fetch the researcher.

You can read the entire Harvard Business School report here. But if you’ve been too quiet at meetings lately, the lesson is probably pretty clear.

Maarten Bos said he wouldn’t bother to tell anyone not to use their smartphones before an important meeting because they wouldn’t listen anyway.

But it seemed obvious that the researchers believe that being hunched over a smartphone can make you act like a wimp.

[rattlesnake aggression display photo by Florian via Flickr/Creative Commons]