Do smartphone alerts make you angry? There may actually be a scientific reason for that

Alerts have a direct and immediate effect on emotional state, research shows.

Buzzing smartphone alerts mat actual impact upon your mood, experts findiStock

Is that buzzing in your pocket making you depressed, stressed out or angry? Well, there may actually be a scientific reason for those negative vibes, new research suggests.

According to a paper published by a team of academics from Nottingham Trent University, digital alerts from smartphones and tablets can have a direct and immediate effect on mood.

Using more than half a million notifications, experts found 32% resulted in negative emotions, with users reporting feeling hostile, upset, nervous or ashamed.

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The paper stated: "While mobile phones and mobile notifications have enhanced the convenience of our life, their obsessive use may have an adverse impact on mental health and well-being."

"We wanted to examine the way in which everyday users interact with phone notifications and the impact upon their mood," said researcher Dr Eiman Kanjo.

"These digital alerts continuously disrupt our activities through instant calls for attention," she continued.

"While notifications enhance the convenience of our life, we need to better-understand the impact their obsessive use has on our well-being."

As part of the study, published in the journal IEEE Access, the team developed an app – dubbed NotiMind – that participants downloaded to their phones.

The software collected details relating to digital alerts, as well as participants' self-reported moods at various points in the day over a five-week period.

The researchers – from the university's School of Science and Technology and School of Social Sciences – said in a release that the findings suggested it was possible to predict phone users' moods based on information they were receiving.

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"It is clear that social notifications make people happy, but when they receive lots of work-related and or non-human notifications, the opposite effect occurs," Kanjo said.

"The finding in relation to emoji characters was particularly interesting.

"Emojis may seem trivial, but they are becoming the world's fastest growing language in all forms of communications.

"Compared to text, this richer set of representations of facial expressions may help to improve reader comprehension of the emotional message content."

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Updates relating to non-human activity – such as general phone updates and WiFi availability – had the most negative impact on phone users' mood, the researchers found.

Notifications were found to have positive effects on mood 68% of the time, however, with users saying they were left feeling active, alert, determined and attentive.

Positive moods correlated strongly with multi-message notifications – such as five messages via WhatsApp – that reportedly created "a sense of belonging and feeling more connected."

The presence of 'emojis' in messages, the team concluded, worked to influence the sentimental value of the message and correlated with the positive mood of recipients.

"Although notifications serve an important purpose for smartphone users, the number of apps which compete for attention has grown significantly over the years," said Dr Daria Kuss, a psychologist from the university's International Gaming Research Unit.

"People often respond quickly, if not immediately to notifications, making them particularly disruptive. Our findings could open the door to a wide range of applications in relation to emotion awareness on social and mobile communication."

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