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Web Survey Bibliography

Title Smartphones as digital companions
Year 2017
Access date 13.04.2017

Relevance & Research Question: Our online study addressed the personal importance of smartphones for their users. Our assumption is that smartphones are omnipresent companions in everyday life and have by far transcended their objective status as technology. Users, as a result, have developed a rather emotional relationship, e.g. feelings of closeness, with their phones. Thus, we investigated the "emotional relevance" of participants’ phones in comparison to other electronic devices and to human beings.

Methods & Data: We developed an online instrument based on techniques from systemic psychotherapy. The original technique involves the positioning of pieces representing family members on a chessboard to visualize relational structures within a family (Gehring & Arnone-Reitzle, 1998). We replaced family members with (1) categories of people and (2) media devices, both pretested to be relevant. Consequently, our tool visualizes the relative importance of both humans and technology via the distances to the piece representing oneself. In addition, self-report scales measured the emotional relationship to the smartphone, levels of smartphone usage, phone-related trust, phone-related stress and stress relief (e.g. Aron, Aron & Smollan, 1996; Rempel, Holmes & Zanna, 1985; Satow, 2012). The full survey, including tool and scales, was conducted online in Germany and the UK (total n = 1168).

Results: Due to space restrictions only core results showing smartphones to be psychologically important beyond their mere technical functionalities can be summarised here. First, the smartphone was the fifth nearest piece on the board, thus revealing it to be (1) the most important technological device and even (2) more important than some categories of relevant persons (e.g. roommate, classmate). Second, survey measures revealed a range of significant predictors for psychological aspects of phone usage, in particular usage intensity (light, medium, heavy), operating system (iOs vs. Android) and closeness to phone as indicated by the position on the chess board.

Added Value: We take our findings as first evidence for our core assumption: smartphone users have on average established significant emotional relationships with their devices. The idea of smartphones as “digital companions” rather than mere digital devices is discussed against (media)psychological and evolutionary explanations.

Year of publication2017
Bibliographic typeConferences, workshops, tutorials, presentations

Web survey bibliography (8390)