Smartphone Addiction Not Habitual, Says Study

John Lister's picture

Phone "addiction" is caused more by boredom, rather than nagging notifications according to a newly-published study. It also found that the "endless scroll" feature on some apps was most likely to detain users.

The study is the work of the London School of Economics and Political Science and published in a journal titled "Computers in Human Behavior." (Source:

Researchers wanted to explore the theory that people are constantly looking at their phones in response to notifications and whether pausing, hiding or filtering such notifications might change user behavior. They ran a study of 37 people in Europe, asking them to wear cameras to record how often and why they picked up and interacted with their phones.

While the small number of participants isn't necessarily a problem with this type of study, it's worth noting that the type of person willing to take part is not necessarily representative of phone users as a whole. The average age of participants was 25, which could also distort the results.

Notifications Rarely Prompt Action

The study monitored 1,130 interactions in total. Of these, 89 percent involved the user picking up and checking the phone without prompting, while just 11 percent were in direct response to a notification alert. (Source:

Another surprise was that although the length of time people spent on each interaction varied widely, the frequency in which users accessed their phone was largely constant in a specific setting (such as home, socializing or commuting).

Around one in six interactions simply involved picking up the phone and checking to see if there were any notifications on the lock screen. Perhaps worryingly, interviews with the participants showed they had little if any memory of these occasions.

Endless Scrolling Common

When users actually did something on their phone, they were most likely to spend longer on apps such as Facebook and Instagram which have so much content that a user can continuously scroll down in order to reach "the end" of new content.

Researchers say the next step should be trying to find out how much of this interaction is down to a specific need (such as seeing if an expected message has arrived) and how much is simply a learned habit.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think these results are representative? How often do you check your phone, rather than pick it up to carry out a specific task? Is it a problem if people are checking for notifications almost unthinkingly?

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Dennis Faas's picture

About the only time I use Facebook is when I have to kill time, such as in a doctor's office - or if I'm bored with what's going on around me. The latter can be a touchy subject especially if I'm supposed to be engaged in the activity that is happening at the time. Other than that, I could care less if Facebook ever existed.

As far as notifications are concerned: before I upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy S10+, I had an S6 Edge and it had a notification light near the top of the phone that would tell me if I had an email or a text message (for example). This light would continuously blink until the notification was cleared. The S10+ does not have the notification light but instead uses the edges of the entire screen to alert me - but this only happens for a few seconds. After that, it goes back to a black screen. I now have to continuously check to see if I missed something that might have come through. I don't know what is worse: the old notification light telling me something is there, or having to constantly check to see if I missed something.

buzzallnight's picture

Tabacco, heroine, crack...

Females seem to have even less resistance than males to this addiction.

this addiction causes the user to think that everyone else has a smart phone too.

Alexander Graham Bell, "who is that, some rapper?"