The motivational science of our constantly connected world

Date of publication: June 15, 2014


In a leap that would have seemed astonishing just over a decade ago, many of us are now constantly connected to our digital world through our mobile device – and we see this play out across many facets of our daily life. This research applies an overarching theory of motivational science to the mobile tech space in order to understand how our motivational orientation, be it promotion or prevention, impacts our lives and our general well-being. For many, our smartphone is an extension of our hand. We know that in the last minute, there were 204 million emails sent, 61,000 hours of music listened to on Pandora, 20 million photo views and 3 million uploads to Flickr, 100,000 tweets, 6 million views, 277,000 Facebook logins, and over 2 million Google searches all via the mobile device (Gartner Symposium IT XPO, 2012). So what motivates this behavior what compels us to reach for our smartphone for the 150th time each day (Meeker, 2013)? Where does this perceived value come from? And how does this relatively new, yet suddenly constant behavior impact our general well-being? The work of Clive Thompson and other social scientists suggests that access to mobile technology – when used properly actually promotes well-being. If participants use their device in a way that mirrors their motivational orientation, they will have higher levels of life satisfaction and well-being than those who do not. But for many of us, that is not the case – we are obsessive and neurotic in our smartphone checking behavior. We are instantly swept away from the moment at hand, often feeling the stress and pressure of an always on society. The goal of this research is to understand the relationship between smartphone usage and motivational science – and how these two aspects of our life impact well-being.

Juliana Smith Holterhaus


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