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Running head: MOBILE PHONE USE

Gender Differences in Mobile Phone Use in Groups Christine M. Judd University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee



2 Abstract

Communication with others through the use of technology has become very commonplace nowadays, especially in public places, and often in the company of others. While some feel that answering or making phone calls while with others is acceptable, others feel that this invasion of technology is socially unacceptable. It was hypothesized that since females highly value interpersonal communication, they would be more likely than males to engage in a mobile phone conversation while in the company of others. A sample of forty participants, twenty male and twenty female, were observed at a Starbucks on Capital Drive in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. The customers were observed as either engaging in a mobile phone conversation, or not doing so, while in the company of one or more peers. The sample of participants observed ranged from approximately twenty to fifty years old, and was predominantly Caucasian. A chi-square analysis of the observed data was completed, and there was no significant difference found between the mobile phone use of males and females in groups.



Gender Differences in Mobile Phone Use in Groups The invention of the mobile phone has been extremely convenient in terms of keeping people connected and able to communicate, even on the go. In almost any social situation it is extremely common to see people engaging in mobile phone conversations. There are several problems that come along with such ease in communication. Citizens going about their daily routines and errands are now ‘forced’ to eavesdrop on the conversation of others that are engaged in mobile phone conversations. Since this technology is so readily available and used by most, there is also the issue of mobile phone use while in the company of others. Although it defies most social etiquette, a phone conversation will often take place even while other parties are present, Strivastava (2005). The use of mobile phone technology has increased a sense of individualism, while consequently disconnecting people during face-to-face interaction with their peers. This is especially true in cases where mobile phone calls are made in the process of one or more people interacting in a face-to-face situation, Strivastava (2005). Many different studies have been conducted on mobile phone use in association with different personality characteristics. For instance, Butt and Phillips (2008), found that people who completed a self-report measure and were found to be ‘disagreeable extraverts’ were likely to use mobile phones the most. These findings were explained by the fact that extraverted people tend to have more social contacts than introverted people, and that people who are found to be ‘disagreeable’ in their personality might be less apt to follow rules of social etiquette. Therefore, they might make more calls in socially inappropriate places or while engaged in a face-to-face conversation with a peer.



There have also been studies that categorize the differences between people that prefer verbal communication with their mobile phones, and those that prefer texting. Reid and Reid (2007) completed a study where participants were categorized as either ‘lonely’ or ‘anxious’. Their data led them to assume that in the case of ‘lonely’ phone users, verbal communication was preferred, while ‘anxious’ phone users preferred to text others. While verbal communication is seen as more intimate for lonely phone users, anxious phone users feel the opposite, and prefer to emotionally connect through the use of written text messages. Jin and Park (2010) studied college-students’ interpersonal reasoning for cell phone use. They found that cell phone use is mostly used for interpersonal communication, (in the same way that face-to-face communication is), and that students’ interpersonal motives for calling others was significantly related to the amount of face-toface interaction. This meant that students were likely to call people that they frequently interacted with face-to-face when they could not personally meet with them. For the students in the study, face-to-face communication was more strongly associated with verbal phone communication than texting was. In terms of the Reid and Reid (2007) study, it could be hypothesized that many people find verbal use of their phones to be an intimate way to communicate with others that they contact. In terms of studying the differences of mobile phone use by gender, Bianchi and Phillips (2005) found that more often females report using mobile phones for social use, while males report using mobile phones for more business-related ventures. In their findings, Bianchi and Phillips’ data supported the fact that males make more calls on a regular basis than females do, however gender was not a predictor of overall phone use in



the study. Igarashi, Takai, and Yoshida (2005) studied the difference between gender and mobile phone use versus face-to-face social interaction with others. In their findings they concluded that although males and females send about the same amount of text messages, females have larger mobile networks than males do. They assumed that this could be due to the fact that females tend to be more ‘self-disclosing,’ and technological communication promotes self-disclosure. Mobile phone use and texting supplement faceto-face communication, and females in the study were more likely to rate face-to-face communication as more important. Therefore, although females prefer face-to-face communication, they can be willing to adapt to mobile phone use and texting as a replacement when it is not available. In association with the previous findings, a study of mobile phone use was proposed. Although some of the previous studies had interesting findings between texting and verbal phone communication, it would be nearly impossible to narrow down ‘texting’ as a variable in this observational study. It was hypothesized that in observing male and female behavior, it is more likely that females would in engage in verbal phone use than males would. This is due to the fact that females were previously found to use mobile phones more than men in a study by Igarashi, Takai, and Yoshida (2005). Although females highly value face-to-face communication, the use of mobile phones to communicate with others can be used to supplement face-to-face interaction with others. It was assumed that females in the company of peers would highly value the possibility of interpersonal communication with others that might not be present, at the expense of social etiquette.


6 Method

Participants A sample of N = 40 participants were observed. They were categorized by the variable of gender so that 20 were female, and 20 male. The participants were observed at a Starbucks on Capital Drive in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. The sample observed ranged from approximately twenty to fifty years-of-age, and was predominantly Caucasian. The four participants that were observed carrying out the behavior of mobile phone use appeared to be in their mid-thirties to early forties. Procedure This observational study was conducted on a sunny, Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Starbucks customers were observed from a seat at a table inside the restaurant where both the cash register and door were visible, and were observed from their moment of entrance until leaving the establishment. The behavior that was documented was whether or not a Starbucks consumer would engage in a mobile phone conversation while in the presence of one or more of their peers. The behavior was limited to verbally communicating with a mobile telephone, and did not include texting or handheld use of phones. Customers that were above the age of 18 and accompanied by one or more peers were observed for mobile phone use, regardless of the gender of their company. Customers that were either alone, under the age of 18, or accompanied by a minor, were excluded from the study. Customers in groups of two or more that engaged in texting or other handheld phone use but not verbal communication with a mobile phone were also excluded. During the process of sighting a group of two or more, a subject was randomly chosen from the group before the observation process began. The first twenty random



subjects in groups chosen for observation were female, and the second set of twenty selected were male. This led to a data collection time frame of about three and a half hours, ending the study at about 1:30 p.m. Results In completing a chi-square analysis of the data, there was no significantly different relationship found between males and females and public mobile phone usage x2 (1, 40) = 1.11, p > .05. 15% of females had a mobile phone conversation while in the company of others, while 85% of females did not. 5% of males had a mobile phone conversation while in the company of others, while 95% of males did not. Discussion The chi-square analysis of the data showed no significantly different relationship between males and females and their mobile phone usage among companions. Although three females, in comparison to one male, were observed having mobile phone conversations, there were not enough people observed on the phone to make the data significantly relevant. The study by Igarashi, Takai, and Yoshida (2005) led to a hypothesis that females would be more likely to use mobile phones than males because of how highly they value interpersonal communication. However, because the chi-square analysis showed no significant relationship, it must be assumed that mobile phone use in the company of peers is gender neutral. The observational study had many possible errors. First, the time frame and location of the study led to a very specific type of sample. It was also possible that participants may have noticed they were being observed and this may have resulted in a change of their behavior. It could have been a more informative study that yielded



significant results had there been a self-report section of the study that led to more insight about personality characteristics, like the study by Butt and Phillips (2007). Future studies could connect some of the previous studies to include more factors, such as gender, personality traits, and verbal phone use versus texting phone use.


9 References

Bianchi, A. PGradDipPsych & Phillips, J. G., Ph.D. (2005). Psychological predictors of problem mobile phone use. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 8, 39-51. Butt, S. & Phillips, J. G. (2008). Personality and self reported mobile phone use. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 346-360. Igarashi, T., Takai, J. & Yoshida, T. (2005). Gender differences in social network development via mobile phone text messages: A longitudinal study. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 691-713. doi: 10.1177/0265407505056492. Jin, B., M.A. & Park, N., Ph.D. (2010). In-person contact begets calling and texting: Interpersonal motives for cell phone use, face-to-face interaction, and loneliness. CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 13, 611-617. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2009.0314. Reid, D. J., Reid, F. J. M., Ph.D. (2007). Text or talk? Social anxiety, loneliness, and divergent preferences for cell phone use. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10, 424435. doi: 10.1080/cpb.2006.9936. Srivastava, L. (2005). Mobile phones and the evoltion of social behaviour. Behaviour & Information Technology, 24, 111-129.

Observation Project  

Experimental Social Psychology Project in Observation of Behavior