Does the size of your device matter?

by Human Capital08 Apr 2014

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.

"People are always interacting with their smartphones before a meeting begins, thinking of it as an efficient way to manage their time," Maarten Bos, co-author of iPosture: The Size of Electronic Consumer Devices Affects our Behaviour, said.

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.”


  • by Cramond 10/07/2013 7:03:56 PM

    What complete and utter tosh this research is. How about the alternative conclusion that can be reached that those using smart phones are happy to potter on the internet or games longer than those assigned a desktop counterparts?

  • by Cramond 10/07/2013 7:07:29 PM

    What complete drivel this is. What about the alternative conclusion that those given a smartphone are happier to potter on the internet and chill than those given a desktop pc? Its like the research that showed it was more dangerous to travel in silver cars than red cars. You were 3 times more likely to have an accident in a silver car! This ignored the fact there were 5 x more silver cars on the roads than red cars so they were actually safer!

  • by Tricia 8/04/2014 12:03:20 PM

    I agree - What a waste of research dollars and time

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