Selfish cell phones: Technology impacts altruism


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Next time you slam your best friend with a triple-word score on Words With Friends and don’t even feel bad that you used that “z,” tell her it’s because your cell phone made you selfish.

College students in a University of Maryland study were less likely to join a volunteer effort after talking on their cell phones for a short time, researchers found. They were also less interested in playing a word game that gave to charity when problems were solved.

Researchers theorize that using cell phones — or thinking about them — satisfies our need for human contact, even if we only chat for a few minutes. If we’re satiated in the warm and fuzzy department, we’re less likely to feel motivated to help out other people.

Oddly, the effect held true even when the students were asked to draw a picture of their phone or just think about using their phones. So every time you think you hear your phone ringing but it’s not, you could be kicking in those selfish tendencies.

And the study authors don’t think it’s only 20-somethings who are affected by this phenomenon. More research is needed, but anyone who uses a cell phone is probably prone to a bout of selfishness, they theorize.

Want to try and cancel out the narcissistic power of your phone? Download one of these great apps that help you use your phone to give back. And we don’t mean reply to a text.

Photo credit: Apple.com

and Volunteer Match (free; available for iPhone) — These apps connect you to needy organizations in your area. Catalista even features a handy map with pins placed where the opportunities are.


Photo credit: Apple.com


Seafood Watch (free; available for iPhone and Android) — With this app created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you can check on the sustainability of your catch-of-the-day before you slather on the tartar sauce.


Photo credit: Apple.com

My Recycle List
and iRecycle (free; available for Android) — Use these apps to find where to bring your paper, plastic and trickier items to recycle, like cell phones and car parts.