Psychophysiological Patterns During Cell Phone Text Messaging: A Preliminary Study


This study investigated the psychohysiological patterns associated with cell phone text messaging (texting). Twelve college students who were very familiar with texting were monitored with surface electromyography (SEMG) from the shoulder (upper trapezius) and thumb (abductor pollicis brevis/opponens pollicis); blood volume pulse (BVP) from the middle finger, temperature from the index finger, and skin conductance (SC) from the palm of the non-texting hand; and respiration from the thorax and abdomen. The counter-balanced procedure consisted of a 2 min pre-baseline, 1 min receiving text messages, 2 min middle baseline, 1 min sending text messages and 2 min post-baseline. The results indicated that all subjects showed significant increases in respiration rate, heart rate, SC, and shoulder and thumb SEMG as compared to baseline measures. Eighty-three percentage of the participants reported hand and neck pain during texting, and held their breath and experienced arousal when receiving text messages. Subjectively, most subjects were unaware of their physiological changes. The study suggests that frequent triggering of these physiological patterns (freezing for stability and shallow breathing) may increase muscle discomfort symptoms. Thus, participants should be trained to inhibit these responses to prevent illness and discomfort.

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We thank Ms. Marisa Cortex for her significant help in doing the research.

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Correspondence to Erik Peper.

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Lin, IM., Peper, E. Psychophysiological Patterns During Cell Phone Text Messaging: A Preliminary Study. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 34, 53–57 (2009).

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  • Texting messages
  • Biofeedback
  • Electromyography
  • Respiration
  • Cell phones