Date of Award

Spring 4-21-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Ford

Academic Program Adviser

Dr. Sandeep Prasada


Human beings are social in nature, but what happens when a tool used to facilitate social interaction instead acts as a disruptor? “Phubbing” describes everyday interruptions in social interactions that occur due to mobile device use (e.g., texting, receiving calls; Chotpitayasunondh & Douglas, 2018). Little is known about how phubbing influences our cognitive and emotional functioning. The aim of the present study is to explore the initial effectiveness of a novel experimental manipulation of phubbing during a joint problem-solving task, evaluate its impact on mood and anxiety-related attention bias, and explore the moderating role of trait anxiety and phubbing induced changes in mood on these effects. Undergraduate students ages 18 to 41 (Mage = 20; N = 83) were partnered with a confederate to complete a timed anagrams task, with or without interruption from the confederate’s mobile device. Self-rated mood was measured, and anxiety-related attention bias was assessed before and after the task. There was a significant main effect of Time (pre- to post-task) on happy mood, happiness ratings dropped in the phubbing condition and did not change in the control condition. Threat bias trended in the predicted direction, threat bias increased in the phubbing condition and decreased in the control condition. Low to medium levels of trait anxiety predicted greater anxious mood in the control condition compared to the phubbing condition. Sadness induced by phubbing predicted higher levels of threat bias and difficulty disengaging from threatening stimuli compared to control. The novel paradigm successfully manipulated phubbing in face-to-face interaction.



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