As we continue to advance into the world of handheld technology, such as smartphones and tablets, studies have begun to show that these handheld devices have become extensions of the human body. As we incorporate these devices into our daily lives, we see more and more the effects that they have on us.
This study explores the effects of proximity on the brain and body in regards to crime stories. The researchers suggested that the closer a story was to the subject geographically, the more likely they would be to perceive a threat. Additionally, the researchers hypothesized that the proximity of the device that the subjects were reading the stories on was important to the level of perceived threat.
A random sample of fifty-four college-aged females was chosen in order to remove any potential gender bias and because females generally tend to be more sensitive to perceived threats. The subjects were randomly assigned to read the news stories on either a desktop computer or their smartphone. The women were then exposed to six different articles, three of which were fictional international crime stories, and three of which were fictional local crime stories.
Physiological responses such as heart rate, skin conductance, and corrugator supercilii (the frowning muscle) were recorded, along with self-reported arousal and engagement.
The study concluded that there was a greater response from those who read the articles on smartphones, as opposed to those who read them on a desktop computer. Participants also reported that the closer a story was geographically, the more engaged they were with the story and the larger response it elicited.
Di Zhu, Erika K. Johnson & Paul Bolls (2020) Platform and Proximity: Audience Responses to Crime News on Desktop Computers and Smartphones, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 64:3, 438-458, DOI: 10.1080/08838151.2020.1796388