Publication Date

Fall 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Evan Palmer


Addiction, Attention, Bias, Fomo, Perception, Smartphone

Subject Areas



Smartphones have become an essential part of modern life, offering access to entertainment, information, and social connections from anywhere, at any time. However, research has associated interactions with these devices with maladaptive behaviors and cognitive impairments. Furthermore, recent research has suggested that the mere presence of a smartphone can deplete cognitive resources. We sought to test the hypothesis that the perceptual salience of smartphones would negatively impact perceptual processes. Using a sample of college-aged students (N = 71), we tested whether the mere presence of a smartphone might affect reaction time and accuracy in a lateralized spatial configuration visual search task, and how the location of the phone might bias attention on this task. Additionally, we tested how individual differences in amount of smartphone and social media usage, smartphone attachment, and fear of missing out correlate with the behavioral measures. The presence of a smartphone neither distracted nor biased attention of participants and was not related to any the variables exploring individual differences. We did find that a large proportion of our sample, especially females, self-reported high levels of smartphone attachment, qualifying as at risk of smartphone addiction. Additionally, we found a positive relationship between fear of missing out, smartphone attachment, and social media usage. Based on these findings, we argue that patterns of smartphone dependence are not related to the amount of time people spend with their smartphones, but the type and amount of social rewards acceded using them.