Research from Harvard Business School has found that those who regularly use smaller computing devices, such as smart phones or tablets, are likely to be more timid afterwards than those who use laptops or desktops.
Despite this belief, it could actually do the opposite. The study found posture that contracts the body, such as folding arms or hunching over a small screen, decreases the levels of testosterone in the body. This can result in less assertive behaviour, which can affect meetings.
The research consisted of a 75-person experiment, in which applicants were given – at random – a smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. After a number of exercises, applicants were given two dollars, and told they could choose to take it, or go for a “double or nothing” gamble.
While the results of who took the money and who gambled didn’t show correlation with the devices used, the true experiment lay in the researcher pointing at the clock and telling the applicant they would be back in five minutes to pay them.
The applicants were told to come and get the researcher at the front desk if they didn’t return in five minutes. Instead of returning, the researcher waited up to 10 minutes and noted interruptions.
While 94% of desktop users interrupted the researcher, laptops users were down to 88% and tablet users 71%. Only 50% of smartphone users interrupted the researcher.
The results demonstrate an increase in meek and passive behaviour in the short time after using a smaller device, which can mean skimming notes and emails in the moments before a meeting could make one less likely to speak up and show initiative.
"We won't tell anyone not to interact with those devices just before doing something that requires any kind of assertiveness," Bos said.
"Mostly because people won't listen, they will do it anyway. But if you realise that, 'hmm, I'm pretty quiet during this meeting’, then maybe you should pay attention to how devices impacted your body posture beforehand.”