Growing Up With Mobile Technology Dampens Your Emotional Radar

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Right now is one of those peculiar moments in human development where generations can be divided into a before-and-after category with regard to a significant development in technology. Immediately, all people alive these days will fall into one of two categories: knowing only a life with the presence of mobile technology, and those who can still remember the analog days of phone books and newspapers printed on actual paper.

A new study by Time Inc. compared these two groups to investigate any behavioral differences between the generations and what their emotional engagement to the behavior (if any) could be. The study, "A Biometric Day in the Life," divided everybody into two groups: "Digital Natives," who are consumers who grew up with mobile technology as part of their everyday lives; and "Digital Immigrants," those who first learned about mobile technology in their adult lives. The purpose of the study was to show how the proliferation of digital devices and platforms affect consumer consumption habits and whether different generations engage differently with various media platforms.

The study combined types of technology to collect data from participants, including a system of biometric monitoring developed by Innerscope Research, a marketing research firm that specializes in measuring the unconscious emotional response of consumers to marketing stimuli. The emotion-gauging metric was combined with point-of-view camera glasses that monitored what type of medium or platform the participant used and when they altered their visual attention between devices.

The study found that Digital Natives switch their attention between media platforms (i.e. TVs, magazines, tablets, smartphones or channels within platforms) 27 times per hour, about every other minute. See, people don't have ADHD - they just have too many distractions in their life thanks to all of the stimuli.

Speaking of psychological effects, Digital Natives were also found to spend more time using multiple media platforms simultaneously, which was linked to a constrained emotional engagement with content. They experience fewer highs and lows of emotional response and as a result, Digital Natives more frequently use media to regulate their mood – as soon as they grow tired or bored, they turn their attention to something new.

Digital Natives willfully tether themselves to mobile technology, as well. They were found to take their devices from room to room with them (65% vs. 41% for Digital Immigrants) – rarely more than an arm’s length away from their smartphones, thus making switching platforms even easier. Given how easily bored and distracted they become, it's no wonder they probably feel separation anxiety if their smartphone or tablet is beyond the reach of their fingertips.

Dr. Carl Marci, CEO and Chief Scientist at Innerscope Research, argued that the findings from this study suggest a changing psychological landscape of the American consumer. "This study strongly suggests a transformation in the time spent, patterns of visual attention and emotional consequences of modern media consumption that is rewiring the brains of a generation of Americans like never before," he said.

So let's make sure everyone is on the same page: growing up in an environment over-saturated with tech stimuli can shape you into an emotionally wooden, attention-deficient, gadget-dependent person who is easily bored.


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