Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Nicole Zarrett

Abstract

The current study is the first test of a newly developed conceptual model of the effect of smartphone use on mindfulness. Previous research has shown the capacity for mindfulness is strongly associated with increased psychological well-being (e.g. higher self-esteem and lower perceived stress, anxiety, and psychological distress). We argue that smartphones can be used in an automatic and mindless or experientially avoidant way, and that this use can lead to a decreased capacity for mindfulness, with adolescents being most vulnerable to this potential impact. Components of mindfulness, such as the capacity for sustained attention and the areas of the brain implicated in attentional control (e.g., the prefrontal cortex) show significant growth through young adulthood. This developing, malleable capacity is vital as adolescents learn to deal appropriately with negative thoughts and unwelcome emotions. Using self-report augmented with objective measures in a planned missingness design, the current study tested the relation of highly involved smartphone use with mindfulness. Among a sample of university students aged 18-20 (N=668), we found smartphone involvement to be significantly associated with lower trait mindfulness (b = -0.83, bootstrapped 95% CI [-1.97, -0.51], z = 4.86, p < .001). Additionally, exploratory analysis of smartphone involvement as a mediator of the effect of smartphone use on mindfulness found a significant estimated indirect effect of - 0.25 (bootstrapped 95% CI: [-0.70, -0.05]). These results provide the first layer of empirical support for an association between use of smartphones in a cognitively and behaviorally involved way and mindfulness.

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