The chameleon effect: why when someone sees your phone, others do the same?

Today it is easier to react to a post on social networks than to look another person in the eye. This is how the chameleon effect works.

At family meals, awkward silences now they are covered with Missing readings from notifications on the cell phone screen. However, this reflex is not exclusive to personal commitments. In the subway, in academic spaces and even in informal meetings, it is presented, as a epoch warp: When someone turns to look at the screen, those around them do too. This is how the chameleon effect.

An epoch warp

Photo: Getty Images

A tic is defined as a involuntary and repetitive movement, which generally denotes a high level of anxiety in the person presenting it. These are usually sudden spasms or noises that the person can’t controlas you are not aware of it.

It could be that the chameleon effect of turning to see the cell phone is decanting from this same collective anguish, which makes it impossible to look people in the face. Without this correspondence in an empathic bond, it becomes uncomfortable not knowing where rest your gaze. Thus, people choose fix their eyes on themselves, by cell phone.

According to New Scientist, this effect kicks in as just 30 seconds. It could be, however, that the original objective of communicating to people who had this type of device is generating the opposite phenomenon. This is what Elisabetta Palagi of the University of Pisa in Italy says:

“We have the need to follow the rules imposed on us by the people around us, in order to [hacer coincidir] our actions with theirs in this automatic way ”, says the expert. “But smartphones can increase social isolation through interference and disruption of ongoing real-life activities.”

This automatic reaction that isolates people – such as human archipelagos, engrossed in their own digital reflection — is distorting the actual interaction between people. With increasing speed, it becomes easier react to a social media post what look another person in the eye.

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A consumerist conditioning?

cameleon effectPhoto: Getty Images

It is not the first time that Palagi approaches this social problem. The cconstant stimulus offered by the torrent of information to which smartphones give access accustoms the brain to that rate of consumption. Coupled with social pressure, the reaction of looking immediately at the phone seems like an easy way out.

The expert had detected facial movements, footsteps, and other anxious manifestations in humans. When he understood that he was also presenting himself looking at the cell phone, he took a sample of 88 women and 96 men in more than 800 different contexts.

The study was carried out in parks, restaurants and public places. Along with his team, Palagi observed individuals react to when someone stared at the screen of their personal device. To his surprise, near the 50% of them mimicked the behavior in less than half a minute.

This behavior does not recognize distinctions of sex or age. Respond to triggering stimuli, as the expert called them in her recent article for the Journal of Ethology. “Most people are infected with the behavior of other people’s mobile phones, without even realizing it,” emphasizes the expert. Today, who looks back is the reflection on the cell phone screen.

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