Mobile phones ruin a meal out

By The Newsroom
Monday, 05 March, 2018, 08:14

Diners glued to their smartphones enjoy eating out less, a new study found.

The devices were a distraction and ruined the conversation making the dining experience less enjoyable than it should be, psychologists suggested.

And surprisingly having their phone on the table made those who cannot put down their gadgets feel more bored.

Canadian researchers got more than 300 people to go out for dinner with friends or family and randomly asked some to put their phones away and others to leave them on the table.

The researchers were careful to ensure participants were unaware they were being monitored for their smartphone use before asking them a variety of questions, including how much they enjoyed the experience.

When phones were present, participants felt more distracted, which reduced how much they enjoyed spending time with their friends and family (about half a point less on a seven-point scale), the researchers found.

Participants also reported feeling slightly more boredom during the meal when their smartphones were present, which the researchers described as surprising.

Mobile distraction

When phones were present, participants felt more distracted, which reduced how much they enjoyed spending time with their friends and family.

They also reported feeling slightly more boredom during the meal when their smartphones were present, which the researchers described as surprising.

Lead author PhD student Ryan Dwyer at the University of British Columbia said: "As useful as smartphones can be, our findings confirm what many of us likely already suspected.

"When we use our phones while we are spending time with people we care about, apart from offending them, we enjoy the experience less than we would if we put our devices away.

"We had predicted that people would be less bored when they had access to their smartphones, because they could entertain themselves if there was a lull in the conversation."

They then carried out a second study involving more than 100 people who were surveyed via their smartphones five times a day for a week.

The researchers saw the same pattern, with participants reporting they enjoyed their in-person social interactions less if they had been using their phones.

Health debate

Senior author Professor of psychology Elizabeth Dunn said the findings add a layer to the ongoing debate over the effects of smartphones on public health.

She said: "An important finding of happiness research is that face-to-face interactions are incredibly important for our day-to-day wellbeing.

"This study tells us that, if you really need your phone, it's not going to kill you to use it.

"However there is a real and detectable benefit from putting your phone away when you're spending time with friends and family."

The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, was presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology's annual meeting in Atlanta.