November 6, 2014

UConn researcher helps AT&T assess texting compulsion

Well, maybe just a quick peek..

If you can't help but look at your cell phone right away when a text message pops up, even when driving, it may be because of brain chemistry, according to a UConn researcher's study commissioned by AT&T.

David Greenfield, a licensed psychologist and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the UConn School of Medicine, found that 75 percent of people admit to at least glancing at their phones when driving.

Greenfield, who heads UConn's Center for Internet Technology and Addiction, said the urge to look is caused by a release of the brain chemical dopamine, which creates a feeling of happiness.

It's the same sort of brain chemistry that happens when someone takes amphetamines, cocaine or nicotine.

Greenfield's study said that 90 percent of phone users know texting and driving is dangerous, but rationalize the behavior, which is a classic sign of addiction.

AT&T commissioned the study as a part of its public outreach campaign titled "Texting & Driving…It Can Wait." The campaign is trying to get phone users to adopt the social media shorthand '#X' to alert texters that they are about to drive and won't be available.

The company is promoting its DriveMode iPhone app, which silences incoming texts and auto-responds to the sender that the recipient is driving.

The app has been downloaded more than 1.8 million times, according to AT&T.

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