Theses Doctoral

The motivational science of our constantly connected world

Holterhaus, Juliana Smith

What's the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, before you even brush your teeth? Most of us reach for our smartphone that spent the night recharging by our side while we tried to do the same. 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; we see this play out across many facets of daily life. There are those of us whose first instinct at the start of the day is to grab that little device and see what occurred during our non-waking hours. Perhaps we check the email that's flooded into our inbox overnight. Next we check Facebook, Twitter, or a favorite news app to catch up on the latest global occurrence. It seems that for many, this desire to check is increasingly irresistible.
Regulatory Focus Theory (Higgins, 1997) and Regulatory Mode Theory (Kruglanski et al, 2000) suggest that the reasons behind this drive to check and stay connected may differ based upon our motivational tendencies. Our motivational orientation--promotion or prevention, assessment or locomotion impacts our lives in countless ways. We know that the effects of motivational orientation play out across career paths, management styles, parenting, negotiations, animal behavior, health and wellness, romantic relationships and the list goes on. Regulatory focus and mode have not yet, however, been applied to our relatively new obsession with mobile technology, which is a space that is rapidly evolving and shaping much of our physical, social, and emotional world. This research aims to understand two key questions: 1. What motivates the constant checking behavior that has become an inherent part of our daily life? 2. How does our subjective experience with such behavior impact our general well-being?
Using a within subjects, longitudinal design of 740 demographically representative Americans, we extracted two separate, yet complimentary stories that encompass objective smartphone checking behavior (captured through native application passive meter technology) and the subjective smartphone experience (assessed via 18 self-report questions surrounding smartphone engagement). Our results suggest that it is in fact our motivational approach to life that fuels our need to stay connected. However, it means something different depending upon what motivations are involved. In addition, the data reveals that our subjective experience surrounding smartphone engagement impacts our general levels of well being.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Higgins, E. Tory
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 11, 2014