Does the type of device you use affect your problem-solving skills? Study says yes

best dating apps
kzenon/123RF
Here’s some food for thought: What if the type of device you use affects your problem-solving skills? Research published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior suggests it just might. Specifically, smartphone users have been found to exhibit more rational, utilitarian decision-making, while their counterparts on PC were found to let emotions undermine their logic more frequently.

In the experiment, roughly 1,000 subjects were asked to decide between two possible outcomes of a moral dilemma. Some were assigned a smartphone to make their judgment call, while others were on a computer. The dilemma took the form of the classic “Trolley Problem,” in which a train is about to hit multiple workers, and the subject is asked if they would divert the train to instead kill one individual rather than several.

There were a few modifications made to the question. In the first trial, subjects could save five workers by pushing one man off a bridge and onto the tracks well before it reached the workers. In another, the subject could pull a switch forcing the train to change tracks, where there would be only one victim instead of five.

In both cases, smartphone users exhibited a higher propensity to choose the utilitarian option — the killing of one to save many — over what researchers termed the deontological response, which would prohibit killing of any nature, regardless of the circumstances.

Not surprisingly, significantly more subjects opted to pull the switch than push the man off the bridge. Regarding the switch question, 81 percent of smartphone users took action, compared to 77 percent of PC users. For the other dilemma, the gulf was a bit wider: 34 percent of phone respondents decided to sacrifice the man’s life, while 22 percent of subjects on computers elected to do the same. As the study states, the act of pulling the switch is considered to be much less emotionally aversive.

So how can we explain the difference? What is it about smartphones that make us into unfeeling, less emotionally driven actors? According to the study, it’s all about the lack of distractions.

The researchers conclude that the digital context of smartphone use is one of time pressure, which facilitates more rash decision making. Smartphones also focus our attention on the task at hand, and cause us to filter out secondary cues much more effectively. Without the time and multitasking resources to consider all the options available, we yield to the numbers argument. On the other hand, experts say computers grant us those luxuries, and thus make moral decisions more challenging by opening the door to increased emotional sway.

As technology bears an increasing influence over our everyday lives, there’s never been a more crucial time to study its effects on how we conduct ourselves — and how different devices and uses might complicate matters further.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Need some help? Here's our handy step-by-step guide on how to Airbnb your home

Getting ready to make your home a great rental? Here's how to Airbnb your home with the right amenities, insurance, supplies, and everthing else that you need. Use this guide to get started without making beginner mistakes!
Home Theater

How to connect your Roku device to your hotel room’s TV

Staying at a hotel, but can't bear to be parted from your favorite streaming shows and movies? Take them with you with our complete guide to using your Roku on the road when staying at a hotel.
Mobile

Whether by the pool or the sea, make a splash with the best waterproof phones

Whether you're looking for a phone you can use in the bath, or you just want that extra peace of mind, waterproof phones are here and they're amazing. Check out our selection of the best ones you can buy.
Computing

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what to do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether you prefer to use an email client or Windows 10.
Computing

Protect your expensive new laptop with the best Macbook cases

If you recently picked up a new MacBook, you’ll want something to protect its gorgeous exterior. Here, we've gathered the best MacBook cases and covers, whether you're looking for style or protection.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Computing

Which midrange Nvidia Turing graphics card should you buy?

Nvidia's top midrange cards are all solid performers, but which offers the best bang for buck? To find out where you should spend your money on your next big upgrade, we pitted the GTX 1660 vs. GTX 1660 Ti vs. RTX 2060.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents with Adobe or a free option

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. The best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Computing

You don't have to spend a fortune on a PC. These are the best laptops under $300

Buying a laptop needn't mean spending a fortune. If you're just looking to browse the internet, answer emails, and watch Netflix, you can pick up a great laptop at a great price. These are the best laptops under $300.
Computing

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Computing

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.