People who write 100 or more text messages a day tend to be "less reflective," and more likely to exhibit prejudice against minority groups. Those are the puzzling findings of a three-year longitudinal study in Canada.
The study focused entirely on text messages, and it's not clear whether IMs, Facebook updates, and tweets counted as "texts." Researchers at the University of Winnipeg based their findings on the habits of first-year college students, who self-reported how many times per day they text, and then took standardized psychological tests to assess their ethical concerns and prejudices about minorities.
According to the CBC:
Heavy texters also showed higher levels of ethnic prejudice, according to psychology professors Paul Trapnell and Lisa Sinclair, who recently presented their findings at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference in New Orleans.
As part of the study, 2,300 first-year psychology students completed one-hour online surveys in which they were asked about their personality traits and life goals, as well as how frequently they texted.
The surveys were conducted at the start of the fall semester for three years in a row.
The surveys found that about 30 per cent of students reported texting 200 or more times a day, while 12 per cent said they sent texts more than 300 times a day.
Those who texted frequently "tended to be significantly less reflective than those who texted less often," the reseachers said . . . All the students who participated were then rated on how they felt about different social groups. Those who had been texting rated minority groups more negatively than the others, according to the researchers.
The group undertook the study in response to a book by Nicholas Carr, where the journalist argues that the internet is making people more "shallow," or less likely to reflect on what they're doing before they do it.
In a release, researcher Trapnell said:
The values and traits most closely associated with texting frequency are surprisingly consistent with Carr's conjecture that new information and social media technologies may be displacing and discouraging reflective thought.
The question is why writing things down makes people less reflective rather than more reflective. After all, psychologists often recommend that people write things down in order to think them over. Why would texts function differently than other kinds of writing?
Read the article over at CBC.