This Week in Research: Your Cell Phone is Making You Selfish

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One upside of the technology boom is that it enables us to stay in touch, connect with others, and otherwise be more social animals… right? Maybe, but not necessarily in a good way, according to a study by University of Maryland marketing professors. After talking on a cell phone for a short time, research subjects were less likely to volunteer for a community service activity than those who hadn’t been chatting on a phone. The researchers posit that a cell phone conversation gives the user a feeling of connectivity and belonging. Once that itch is scratched, there’s less of a need to engage in empathic or prosocial behavior. Even more scary, this decreased focus on others held true when participants were asked to draw a picture of their cell phones and think about using them, without even making a phone call.

And — sorry for more bad news! — patients who recover from potentially deadly diseases are hardly brimming with joy and gratitude, according to research by Johns Hopkins psychiatrists and doctors. Instead, these patients often suffer from depression… which can lead to new physical problems. (Yes, that’s right — the depression comes before the new physical impairments.) The study looked at survivors of acute lung injuries in Baltimore hospitals, and found that 40 percent suffered depressive symptoms in the two years following their discharge. Two-thirds had new physical problems that made it difficult to perform the tasks of daily life, such as using the phone and shopping for food. This is despite the fact that the average age of the patients was 49. “Patients are burdened for a very long time after their hospital stays,” says Dale Needham, a Hopkins doc who was the study’s principal investigator. “We need to figure out what we can do to help these previously productive people get back their lives.” The study posits that it’s not just the illnesses that make patients have a hard time recovering, but also the standard ICU procedures of deep sedation and bed rest.



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