WSU Students Study Smartphone Addiction

OGDEN, Utah — Smartphone addiction is a contributing factor to reduced test performance and anxiety, according to research from Weber State University psychology students.

“People need to realize that smartphones can become a problem if they are not used in moderation,” said Hendrik Ombach, a student researcher for the study.

The study, performed by four WSU students and their professor, measured blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety levels and degree of smartphone addiction in 103 participants.

Each participant was asked to learn information they would later be tested on. Some participants were told they could use their phone during the test and some were told they couldn’t. Just before the test, the conditions were switched.

Using a phone helped participants on the test. Participants who initially thought they had access to their phones and later didn’t experienced a negative impact in regard to test performance. This was even more pronounced if they had higher levels of smartphone addiction.

The data shows those with higher smartphone addiction scores tend to have higher anxiety levels in general. Some of the study’s participants felt more nervous and anxious when they didn’t have access to their cellphones, which can contribute to poorer test performance.

“If you think you’ll be able to look up information like you often do with your smartphone, you don’t really try to remember it,” said Shannon McGillivray, assistant professor in psychology. “That’s the basic idea and pattern that our research has found.”

Nomophobia, or the fear of being without a mobile device, was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders just this year, but it is becoming more prevalent.

“Most of us have a smartphone, but some people have a bit of an obsession,” McGillivray said. “Those with nomophobia feel anxious and nervous without their smartphone, and anxiety can be a contributor to poorer test performance.”

Ombach, McGillivray, J’lene Rea, Tahne Vongsavath and Kaleb Shumway began working on the project in August 2014. They spent months conducting background research, studying participants and finding conclusions based on their results.

Their findings were presented at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association in Boise, Idaho, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Cheney, Washington and the WSU Undergraduate Research Symposium.

“There is an app for everything,” Ombach said. “If you’re constantly on your phone, it can become really problematic and interfere with everything from your relationships to your daily life.”

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Rachel Badali, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7295 •


Shannon McGillivray, psychology assistant professor
801-626-7867 •