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Mobile Phone Conversations vs. Face-to-Face Conversations

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Published: Wed, 15 Aug 2018

Mobile Phone Conversations vs. Face-to-Face Conversations in Public Settings: An Annotated Bibliography

  • Margarita Parker

 

Cell phones burst into our life in the early 90’s and became an integral part of the modern world. They are convenient and essential. They are not only communication devices but also our friends who keep our secrets and save our happiest moments. They remind us about important events and wake us up in the morning. However, more and more people find it inappropriate and unethical to be involuntarily involved in other people’s cell phone conversations in public settings.

At first, this paper was planned to be designed as a research critique paper on a study found in the textbook. The study I found interesting was conducted in 2008 by Scott Campbell, professor of Telecommunications in the University of Michigan (Campbell, 2014). His study, Perceptions of mobile phone use in public: The roles of individualism, collectivism, and focus of the setting (Campbell, 2008), was mentioned by Keyton (2010) in terms of “how mobile phone use in public settings was influenced by cultural and individual differences” (p. 45). I located the study online at ECU Joyner Library, read it, and found the results interesting. Campbell (2008) found that “participants with a collectivistic orientation [are] more tolerant of mobile phone use” in public settings that participants with an individualistic orientations (Campbell, 2008).

While reading the study, I noticed that Campbell often mentioned the study by Monk et al. (2004) who found that people perceive cell phone conversations in public settings more annoying than face-to-face conversations of the same loudness. I located this study online at ECU Joyner Library, found it very interesting, and my initial research question – “How people of different cultures perceive the use of the mobile phones in public setting?” – changed to the other one: “Do people find cell phone conversations in public settings more annoying than face-to-face conversations?” Thus, I shifted my focus from a study in the textbook to an annotated bibliography.

The study of Monk et al. (2004) became as incitement for its replication by Forma and Kaplowitz (2012). Therefore, this study was located online at ECU Joyner Library, read and analyzed carefully, and an annotated bibliography of the two studies was written.

Monk, A., Carroll, J., Parker, S., & Blythe, M. (2004). Why are mobile phones annoying? Behaviour & Information Technology, 23 (1), 33-41. doi: 10.1080/01449290310001638496

In this study, Monk and the colleagues investigate the participants’ perception of mobile phone conversations and face-to-face conversations in public places. Monk et al. (2004) suggested that people might be more annoyed when hearing a cell phone conversation than a face-to-face conversation. They hypothesized that there were a few explanations to it. Frist, they suggested that it could be explained by the content or the volume of the conversation. Second explanation could be the novelty of the mobile connection technology. “People are used to others having face-to face conversations in public spaces and have learned to ignore them. The mobile phone is relatively new and hence more noticeable” (Monk et al., 2004). Third factor was suggested to be the fact that the one only hears a half of the cell phone conversation thus could not fully understand the content of the conversation.

The experiment involved sixty-four randomly chosen participant – a half of them in the bus station, another half in the train carriage. The participants were exposed to the same staged conversation – one was face-to-face and another on the cell phone. The conversations lasted about one minutes. After that the participants were asked to read six statements and rate the conversation one the card displaying the Likert scale from 1(‘strongly disagree’) to 5 (‘strongly agree’). Each of the six statements was analyzed separately to find out “how the three independent variables, context (bus station or train), medium (mobile phone or face-to-face) and loudness (normal or loud), affect the ratings” (Monk et al.).

A three-way between-subjects analysis of variance, Levine’s test for heterogeneity of variance, a two-tailed t-test, and a Mann-Whitney U-test were used to analyze the data.

Analysis of Statement 1, The conversation was very noticeable, showed that the participants found the mobile conversation more noticeable than the face-to-face conversation of the same volume and content. Most of the ratings of Statement 2, The conversation was intrusive, were low. Analysis of Statement 3, I found myself listening to the conversation, revealed that the participants tended to listen to the cell phone conversation more than the face-to-face conversation. The participants were not strongly agreed or strongly disagreed on Statement 4, I found the ring tone of the phone annoying, as well as Statement 5, I found the volume of the conversation annoying. The rating of Statement 6, I found the content of the conversation annoying, were low.

The findings provide evidence that in general, cell phone conversations are perceived as more noticeable and annoying than face-to-face conversations at approximately the same volume and content. The authors conclude that the study supported one of their hypothesis – cell phone conversations are more annoying because one hears only one side of the conversations that means people would rather hear a dialogue of two people than a monologue on the call phone.

One of the advantages of the study is the random selection of participants as well as conducting the study in the real public settings were participants could do what they usually do in this public setting. However, the level of background noise was not taken into consideration. It can vary from very loud to very quiet in the bus station as well as on the train. This could affect the results of the study. More could be done on studying the effect of the context and content of the conversation. The authors of this study refer to Wei and Leung (1999) who found that public transportation settings were to be less irritating than restaurants, schools, and libraries (Wei & Leung, 1999; Monk et al, 2004). Thus, the experiment could be conducted in the different public places such as restaurants, schools, theaters, hospitals, shopping malls, etc. in order to ensure validity and reliability of the experiment. The content of the conversation could be manipulated from being very annoying (talking to a customer service representative) to being very pleasant (congratulation on a new baby).

The study is interesting but quite outdated. As stated in one of the hypothesis, cell phones were perceived as novelty. They were the novelty in the 90s but not anymore. However, the cell phone conversations in public setting are still perceived as rude and annoying. Thus, this study needs expansion as well as replication in the current time.

Forma, J., & Kaplowitz, S.A. (2012). The perceived rudeness of public cell phone behavior. Behaviour & Information Technology, 31 (10), 947-952. doi: 10.1080/0144929X.2010.520335

The authors report two studies on the perception of face-to-face and mobile phone conversations. The first study was designed to find out if people speak louder when talking on the cell phone than when talking face-to-face. 90 participants were found on a university campus – “30 cell phone users and 60 people having face-to-face conversations” (Forma & Kaplowitz, 2012). The participants were observed in two public settings – in a food court on campus and in a lobby outside the food court. 30 cell phone and 30 face-to-face conversations were discretely recorder by one of the authors of this study who sat within 1 m of the participants and recorded the average dB level for 1 minute. The analysis of the collected data confirmed that people talk louder on the cell phone than face-to-face.

The second study was a replication of the study of Monk et al. (2004). The goal of this study was to confirm or disprove the findings of Monk et al. (2004) that mobile phone conversations in public settings are perceived more annoying than face-to-face conversations. As in Monk et al. (2004) experiment, Forma and Kaplowitz (2012) used two actresses who engaged in cell phone and face-to-face staged conversations on a bus. In some of the face-to-face conversations, both actresses were audible while in others only one actress was audible. Participants were students riding the bus on the campus. After the conversation was over, the participants were asked if they noticed the girls’ conversations. Those who answered “yes” were given the questionnaire. 160 participants completed the questionnaire similar to the one Monk et al. (2004) used. The analysis of the results confirmed the findings of Monk and the colleagues that people perceive cell phone conversations in public places more rude that face-to-face conversations. Moreover, Forma and Kaplowitz (2012) found that face-to-face conversations in which only one person was audible were perceived even more annoying than cell phone conversations.

Both studies of Forma and Kaplowitz (2012) are fairly recent, well designed, the topics are deeply analyzed, and the authors’ claims are strongly supported with evidence. The replication of the study of Monk et al. (2004) included more participants (160 vs 64) that could increase validity and reliability of the study.

However, there are some factors that could make the validity and reliability of both studies of Forma and Kaplowitz (2012) slightly questionable as the participants were mostly young students, and the sample did not include people of different ages and occupations while in the original study by Monk et al. (2004) participants were randomly selected on the train and the bus station.

Lastly, I would like to mention that the studies conducted by Monk et al. (2004) and Forma and Kaplowitz (2012) based on some of the findings in the work “Blurring public and private behaviours in public space: policy challenges in the use and improper use of the cell phone” by Wei and Leung (1999). This work deserves a special attention. However, this assignment is limited to two annotations. Thus, I am planning to return to this work in the future.

References

Campbell, S.W. (2008). Perceptions of mobile phone use in public: The roles of individualism, collectivism, and focus of the setting. Communication Reports, 21 (2), 70-81. doi: 10.1080/08934210802301506

Campbell, S.W. (2014). Curriculum Vitae. University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://sitemaker.umich.edu/scott.campbell/files/campbell_cv_aug_2014_.pdf

Forma, J., & Kaplowitz, S.A. (2012). The perceived rudeness of public cell phone behavior. Behaviour & Information Technology, 31 (10), 947-952. doi: 10.1080/0144929X.2010.520335

Keyton, J. (2010.) Communication Research: Asking Questions, Finding Answers (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Monk, A., Carroll, J., Parker, S., & Blythe, M. (2004). Why are mobile phones annoying? Behaviour & Information Technology, 23 (1), 33-41. doi: 10.1080/01449290310001638496

Wei, R., & Leung, L. (1999). Blurring public and private behaviours in public space: policy challenges in the use and improper use of the cell phone. Telematics and Informatics, 16, 11–26. doi:10.1016/S0736-5853(99)00016-7


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