On the bus, in the doctor’s waiting room (or the vaccinodrome!), Or even with family or friends … As soon as a person takes out their smartphone, to surf social networks or otherwise, those around them tend to do the same.
A strange phenomenon of spontaneous mimicry, which Italian researchers observed and evaluated in a new study. The results were published online on April 17, 2021 in the Journal of Ethology.
A team from the University of Pisa (Italy) has found that a “chameleon effect”, quite comparable to that which occurs when someone yawns, takes place when someone starts to tap on their phone in a frequented place. Almost half of the witnesses in turn start using their smartphones, proof that this behavior is in some way “contagious”.
In all, the researchers here observed the behaviors and attitudes of 184 people (96 men and 88 women), in common spaces (canteen, park, dinner, etc.). As soon as a person started picking up their smartphone, for example, to see if they had received a message or a notification, the researchers counted the number of people doing the same in the next 30 seconds. The same experiment was repeated, this time with a phone call.
Verdict: overall, half of the people who saw someone use their smartphone (outside of a call) did the same thing within 30 seconds. On the other hand, in the case of a phone call, only 0.5% of those around them called someone in turn. Moreover, this spontaneous mimicry was less present when the participants shared a meal, which, for the researchers, proves that this moment of conviviality remains “sacred” and focused on direct social interactions.
The authors finally believe that this mimicry can partly explain the generalized and large-scale use of the smartphone, at least in the public space.