Smartphones and Close Relationships: The Case for an Evolutionary Mismatch

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Description: In Press, Perspectives on Psychological Science. Accepted, 11.2.2018 This final accepted version may differ from published version as a function of changes that emerge during the copyediting process. This paper introduces and outlines the case for an evolutionary mismatch between smartphones and the social behaviors that help form and maintain close social relationships. As psychological adaptations that enhance human survival and inclusive fitness, self-disclosure and responsiveness evolved in the context of small kin networks to facilitate social bonds, to promote trust, and to enhance cooperation. These adaptations are central to the development of attachment bonds, and attachment theory is middle-level evolutionary theory that provides a robust account of the ways human bonding provides for reproductive and inclusive fitness. Evolutionary mismatches operate when modern contexts cue ancestral adaptations in a manner that does not provide for their adaptive benefits. This paper argues that smartphones and their affordances, while highly beneficial in many circumstances, cue our evolved needs for self-disclosure and responsiveness across broad virtual networks and, in turn, have the potential to undermine immediate interpersonal interactions. We review emerging evidence on the topic of technoference, defined as the ways in which smartphone use may interfere with or intrude into everyday social interactions (either between couples or within families). The paper concludes with an empirical agenda for advancing the integrative study of smartphones, intimacy processes, and close relationships.

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