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Mobile phone use changes the way we walk

Mobile phone use alters people's gait and approach to obstacles, say researchers.
mobile phones

Mobile phones are changing how we walk and look at the world, research shows.

A study led by scientists at Anglia Ruskin University investigated how mobile phone use affects where people look and how they negotiate an obstacle along their walking path.

Participants wore a mobile eye tracker to record where they looked and motion analysis sensors to monitor how they walked.

They then stepped over a floor-based object, similar in height to a roadside kerb, while writing and reading a text, talking on the phone, and also when not using a phone.

The scientists found that when using a phone, irrespective of how it is being used, people look less frequently and for up to 61% less time at the obstacle on the ground.

Mobile phone users also adopted a cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy, which involves lifting their

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Mobile phones are changing how we walk and look at the world, research shows.


Picture: iStock

A study led by scientists at Anglia Ruskin University investigated how mobile phone use affects where people look and how they negotiate an obstacle along their walking path.

Participants wore a mobile eye tracker to record where they looked and motion analysis sensors to monitor how they walked.

They then stepped over a floor-based object, similar in height to a roadside kerb, while writing and reading a text, talking on the phone, and also when not using a phone.

The scientists found that when using a phone, irrespective of how it is being used, people look less frequently and for up to 61% less time at the obstacle on the ground.

Mobile phone users also adopted a cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy, which involves lifting their lead foot 18% higher and 40% slower over the obstacle to reduce the risk of tripping.

Researchers found writing a text resulted in the greatest adaptations in visual search behaviour and gait compared with reading texts or talking on a phone.

Lead author Matthew Timmis said: 'Our findings indicate that phone users adopt a cautious approach when faced with fixed objects on the ground. Accidents are likely to be the result of objects suddenly appearing that phone users were not aware of.'


Timmis M et al (2017) The impact of mobile phone use on where we look and how we walk when negotiating floor based obstacles. Plos One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179802

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