The smart phone as pacifier

In light of consumers’ growing dependence on their smartphones, this article investigates the nature of the relationship that consumers form with their smartphone and its underlying mechanisms. We propose that in addition to obvious functional benefits, consumers in fact derive emotional benefits from their smartphone, in particular, feelings of psychological comfort and, if needed, actual stress relief. In other words, in a sense, smartphones are not unlike “adult pacifiers.” This psychological comfort arises from a unique combination of properties that turn smartphones into a reassuring presence for their owners: the portability of the device, its personal nature, the subjective sense of privacy experienced while on the device, and the haptic gratification it affords. Results from one large-scale field study and three laboratory experiments support the proposed underlying mechanisms and document downstream consequences of the psychological comfort that smartphones provide. The findings show, for example, that (a) in moments of stress, consumers exhibit a greater tendency to seek out their smartphone (study 2); and (b) engaging with one’s smartphone provides greater stress relief than engaging in the same activity with a comparable device such as one’s laptop (study 3) or a similar smartphone belonging to someone else (study 4).

That is by Shiri Melumad and Michel Tuan Pham, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


How many people use a smart phone to message here?

And Shiri is a pseudoynm for the embodiment of pacification, as AI starts to adopt more characteristics.

I use my phone to read the Abstract of of silly "academic" papers like this. The full article is pay-walled.

Funny we call a smart phone a phone when that is the app we use the least.

If we are going to refer to it as an app, maybe I should call mine my YouTube.

I can't see a good use for a smart phone. If I had to only use a phone to use the internet I would give up the internet.
To me the only value of the phone is to make phone calls. And I dislike incoming calls so much my phone is always turned off except when I need to call someone. The best thing about my phone is that I can shut it off.

You're kind of a badass.

I do one other thing with my phone and that is tether to the internet when I travel. But other than that I truly am stumped how I would use it. I don't do facebook or text. It can't do everything my computer does and what it can do is on a tiny screen I can't read and a tiny keyboard I can't effectively use. I don't play video games. I do watch youtube but not on a small screen, even my 10 tablet is too small to watch comfortably.

So many Lewises, so few adjectives.

I recently spent time at the hospital bedside of a very ill, close family friend. I was there for hours at a time with someone that was semi-conscious. I remember thinking, I wouldn't be able to do this without my phone. It kept me distracted enough to be there for them without being stressed out.

And I did the same thing before smartphones. I talked with nurses, went to the cafeteria, sat and read a book, etc. There are always ways to do what we need to do.

A book! A book! Fancy that. That is what I use my phone for other than a phone and camera - lighter and in many cases smaller.

Who won't admit to sleeping with their phones?

Apple should put fur on the next i-Phone with a purring app.

Smart phones are Huxley's SOMA
I like the way Huxley said goodbye to this world

Kevin Lewis really is excellent. He always makes such excellent recommendations. Everyone should be more like Kevin Lewis, striving for excellence, diversity, and inclusion.

Michael Lewis is also excellent.

Carl Louis is incredible:

I hate my iPhone 6

In April 2017, I was involved in a head-on collision (broad daylight) with a smart youth that ran a red light while he said he was not texting on his smart phone. When the dust settled the ins. co. reimbursed my deductible.

l use whatever $.99 flip phone I get for $.99 with the plan. I limitedly text with it.

I'm not smart enough to have a smart phone that costs what? $1,000.

Texting while walking is also annoying. I need to make my train, girls.

What about while riding a horse?

$200 Americano should buy you a decent smart phone, Dick. Here that will get you 4 gig of RAM, 128 gig memory, and whatever. If you have a little more budget you can get a Huawei.

Don't people use the smart phone for positive feedback for one's beliefs. Thus, when under stress upon receiving negative feedback, one can go to the smart phone for social media that will provide positive feedback for one's beliefs. For example, if one's boss criticizes one's work, then one can go to her smart phone where she will find positive feedback for her intelligence, good nature, etc. I recall a study from several years ago about the percentage of people who sleep with their smart phones. No, not just in the bedroom, but in the bed. Maybe that contributes to the difficulty millennials have with intimate relationships. I mean intimate relationships with other people, not one's smart phone.

The romantic sentiment takes into account a sanguine indifference to ideation

So they're something like a rosary?

I still think having a smart phone in one's bed is much better than having a revolver in one's bed. I sleep with a box of facial tissues, so there.

People also use the smart phone as a manifestation of their self-absorption. I am referring to selfies. As I use the term, I mean any visual recording of a place or event, not just of oneself. At any public event almost everyone in attendance can be seen holding up her smart phone recording the event, a weird sight in itself. For example a Trump rally. It's not as though there's a shortage of Trump photographs. But the purpose isn't to have a photo of Trump but as proof of one's attendance at the rally. Have folks always been this self-absorbed (or insecure?) or has the smart phone caused it?

I think this is just an example of new technology enabling a desire that was always there.

People used to try the occasional selfie in the past, but even when film cameras had timers the cost of using one of twenty four shots on a roll of film, plus developing a shot that might be worthless, checked the impulse. Marginal cost now is zero.

Ah yes, ye olde Self Timer on the front of an SLR. Setting it and scrambling to get in the picture frame.

For a brief moment of history this conversation would have turned to the inevitability of the Apple Watch.

It turns out, for most people there are limits.

Pre cell-phone era I'd notice in the workplace how smokers often kept their pack of Marlboros right out in front of them as a kind of visual security blanket, even in a situation where they wouldn't or couldn't smoke. And of course smokers would do this in a bar as well.

So phones fill a similar emotional need in a similarly sized package. I don't know whether smokers now prioritize their phones or the pack of cigs.

If only more service subscribers lit up their smartphones by mistake! (I know sometimes I'd like nothing better than to apply the working end of an acetylene torch to a computer operating system or some defective software.)

Try the working end of a shotgun; much more satisfying, especially with an audience (wear hearing protection).

I am worried about how overly generalizable and dependant on the negative valence of the word "pacifier" these statements are. Also, anti-technology bias that isn't (or at least, not recently) deployed against fundamentally identical systems like books.

If I am stressed about my aging grandparents health, and I reach for my phone to text/talk to my wife about it, and she reassures me that it will be okay, is that me "pacifying myself, like a newborn, with my phone?" If we take the phrase "In other words, in a sense, smartphones are not unlike “adult pacifiers.”" why can't we also reduce the role of my wife in my life to "adult pacifier"? Does that seem accurate?

If I am bored on the train and play a multiplayer game with my friend, is that a pacifier? Did we look at people playing chess in the park and say "look how they are pacifying themselves like babies!"

If I am waiting in the doctor's office or enjoying a relaxing evening at home and I read a book on my phone, is that a pacifier? Do we say the same about someone reading a book?

Citing contrary anecdotes and salutary features does not nullify the premise.

Behaviors are a spectrum, not an either/or. Some people, some times, use it more like a pacifier. Or like an addict.

No, perhaps not necessarily - but perhaps they show that the term "adult pacifier" is not really one that has productive descriptive ability to adults and smartphones. Particularly since the concept of baby pacifiers is a single thing that provides comfort to cognitively limited infants, and a phone is a not a single thing, but instead an access method for a thousand different, obviously psychologically differently-impacting things (no one is looking at their *phone*, they are looking at an app on their phone, and whatever interaction or information within it is what drives any emotional result) and so equating the two is silly.
The four conclusions listed are entirely obvious and banal to anyone who has every used a cell phone and thought about the actual use cases that describe those scenarios.
They are proving too much. By these standards almost any behavior or object interacted with in response to stress could be described as "an adult" pacifier. The only reason they chose the term was to create controversy by casting people who use their phones too much as infants. You are right, behaviors are a spectrum - and using the specific (and only scientifically relevant in context of babies, but very relevant if you're trying to insult people) word pacifier to describe a wide range of totally different adult behaviors - simply because they share the feature of stress reduction (???) - is precisely the kind of thing that ignores that spectrum.
So ask yourself: would you or I, or anyone else be discussing this article if it only held the actually true and defensible (but extremely boring) claims that some people use some apps to relieve stress they are incapable of otherwise removing? No, because that's a boring and pointless claim. But it's fun to call people babies!

Yet picking out one characteristic of our relationship with technology is arbitrary and novelistic/journalistic. Either you frame a psychological theory of what adult pacification is and how it is accomplished (independent of the tool), then discuss how the smartphone is similar to/different from other tools and propose a research agenda for same....OR you examine the myriad ways humans relate to this strange new machine that has become ubiquitous and craft a theory of human adaptation to such new devices (including the car, electricity, street lights, incandescent lights, clothing stores, etc.) that disrupt our daily life and posit a theory of how our attachment to said devices forms and changes with greater familiarity. Of particular interest should be the characteristics of the technology that seem to affect/flummox/stimulate people the most. In addition, the role of society in said adaptation should be elucidated -- e.g., with cars, speed limits, paved roads, stop signs, traffic tickets, gas stations, etc. It occurs to me that, where the car is concerned, Fords continued to be named after their predecessor the horse, e.g., Pinto, Mustang.

So, I am not a fan of this supposed new knowledge and do not find it "excellent."

People spend hours a day watching TV. It's the golden age of TV, which often means sex and violence with an intellectual veneer. Then they panic about kids getting too much "screen time" with that newfangled TikTok and Fortnite stuff, pass the smelling salts.

Who could've guessed that, among all the other conveniences and opportunities they afford, smartphones are able to confer haptic gratification?

Alas, the researchers neglect to tell us up front what "haptic competition" amounts to in our contemporary worlds of textures. How does the haptic consolation conferred by smartphones compare with the haptic consolations afforded by, say, human hands?

So many things we're just never told, sigh tsk alas et cetera . . .

Compare and contrast to worry beads.

YES! Or a quick ride in the car.

I carry my phone from room to room like a teddy bear. I do that as to not miss a call. Pre-cellular, I had a phone in (almost) every room, or a cordless that I carried from room to room.
When I leave the house I have keys in my pocket. Always the same pocket. I regularly check that pocket for keys that I know are there. Missing a call or misplacing ones keys is inconvenient and in some cases costly. Regularly keeping track of a useful and regularly used tool seems rational.

Sometimes I wonder if the ability to connect with other people, convey messages, do business, etc. in the age before cell phones was just a dream.

I spent some time in Europe as a student. My relationships back home survived. My parents survived. My dog died and the world did not end. And - and you might want to sit down - my peers and I made plans to meet up in foreign cities weeks in advance - and pulled it off. More often than not, there they were sitting in front a mug of beer. Or not. We embraced. We shared stories.

Not just cell phone ubiquity. Long distance calls was expensive, overseas calls were very expensive. People wrote letters, and for overseas used special thin and light paper for airmail.

American Express used to operate a postal service for travelers, i.e. someone could send a letter to Your Name, c/o American Express, London or Paris or wherever you planned to be. You went to the American Express office, showed your passport as ID, and picked up your mail.

I sent airmail but it never occurred to me that's why the stationery was so thin. My phone thus made me feel stupid today, something TV never did. On the other hand I was able to look up the word "haptic" at just a touch, so I got it back.

Youth hostels had message boards, I recall.

You probably flew to Europe though. Once upon a time, people spent weeks on sailing ships. Sailing uphill both ways. They survived, usually. And they liked it!

'xactly. I would have preferred sailing.

We sat on the tarmac for eight hours before leaving. Got hammered and drank all the booze on the plane. Arrived in the middle of the night hungover and jet lagged.

"haptic gratification"- Thanks, I just learned a new word today. Haptic

Me too.

A few years ago we were constantly told that Americans were too isolated (bowling alone, etc.), and now we're hearing that Americans are too connected all the time. There just always seems to be a market for articles saying "you're doing it wrong."

In the attention economy you win by saying "everything you thought you knew about Topic X is wrong". You can make a clickbait headline out of it, or an entire career. It's the currency of the realm.

If you search YouTube for "louis ck hates cell phones" there is some trenchant commentary on the pacifier aspect, as well as the empathy filter problem.

A smart phone is a security blanket for intellectuals who want to stay current by commenting how it is ruining some aspect of life. Smartphones are more like other daily-use technologies than different. The car, the telephone, electric lights...all had major impacts on our way of life, and all were puzzling in various ways while individuals and society tried to figure them out. And all had legions of short-vision interpreters. "We make our tools and our tools make us," always the case. Smart phones are dumb, we are learning. They are not intelligent in any authentic way. Put one on your desk and ask it to turn itself on or invent calculus or program itself from scratch. "Humans are Underrated" by Geoff Colvin is a good jeremiad of the counter-argument. I prefer the term advanced algorithms to artificial intelligence.

On the positive side, smart phones have replaced cigarettes. In the past, when people were anxious or wanted to kill time, they'd light up a cigarette. Now, they fidget with their phones. You can get distracted by your smartphone and walk into a dangerous situation, but cigarettes are a major cause of lung cancer and other lung diseases. As far as I am concerned, this is progress.

Of course, cigarettes were much better on video. Look at how many old movies have actors offering cigarettes, fishing out cigarettes, lighting cigarettes, smoking cigarettes and so on as time killers and conversation spacers. Smart phones haven't evolved a similar visual language. Maybe in ten or twenty years everyone will recognize the various smart phone gestures so their gestures can be used in visual drama.

You can sign up to websites, social media (Facebook, Twitter) and read the incoming emails.

I can't see smartphone use healthy.In my opinion the phone's main meaning is making phone calls. I don't like incoming calls so much .

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