We're more likely to make rational decisions on our smartphones, than on PCs
While it might seem unrealistic to assume that the device we're currently using affects our choices in any way, a study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior suggests otherwise. According to its results, people are more likely to make a rational decision when presented with a moral dilemma on their smartphone, while PC users are more likely to rely on intuition and emotions.
The researchers worked with 1,010 volunteers, and judged their reactions depending on the device they were using – either a smartphone, or a PC. Participants were presented with a number moral dilemmas, such as the classic trolley problem, involving a runaway trolley, going down its tracks. However, there are five people tied on its path, unable to move away. The participants had two choices – either do nothing and let the trolley run over the innocent people, or push a man off the bridge which would stop the trolley and save the group. What is considered to be the rational, utilitarian decision is to kill one person, saving five, and this is the choice 33.5% of smartphone users made, as opposed to 22.3% of PC users.
Participants were also given what's considered the original version of the trolley problem, once again with a trolley and five innocent people on its path. This time, however, they were given the choice to pull a lever and divert the trolley on another track, where only one person would be sacrificed, instead of five. The results of this experiment were much closer – 80.9% of smartphone users would divert the trolley, as opposed to 76.9% of PC users. However, in both cases more smartphone users made the rational decision.
The reasons behind the study were also explained by Dr. Barque-Duran. “Due to the fact that our social lives, work and even shopping takes place online,” he said, “it is important to think about how the contexts where we typically face ethical decisions and are asked to engage in moral behaviours have changed, and the impact this could have on the hundreds of millions of people who use such devices daily.”
So, next time you decide to do some online shopping, we suggest you do it on your phone. You may even save some cash that way.