You are here

Smartphone Use Undermines Enjoyment of Face-to-Face Interactions at Dinnertime

Image of young men and women sitting around a table on their smartphones

Atlanta, GA - While “Take your elbows off the dinner table,” is a common refrain for many families, people may soon add, “take your phone off the table” to the list, too.  According to research being presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Convention, people with smartphones present during dinner time report less enjoyment than those who kept their phones away.

There’s been the assumption that engaging in phone use during social interactions would dampen happiness, but this is the first field experiment to gather empirical data to prove the point.

Ryan Dwyer (University of British Columbia), Elizabeth Dunn (University of British Columbia) & Kostadin Kushlev (University of Virginia) tested 304 people in a field experiment at a restaurant. Groups of 3–5 friends or family members were randomly assigned to the phone or phoneless condition at a local café. After the meal, the participants answered questions about their experience.

Dwyer and colleagues found participants derived less enjoyment from a meal with friends and family when phones were present than when phones were absent.

Phones do not need to be completely off limits, according to Dwyer, the study’s lead author.

“It will probably not ruin your social life if you use your phone occasionally at dinner, but frequent phone use during such social interactions might chip away at your well-being over time,” says Dwyer.

They followed up their experiment through experience sampling, where they asked people to report what they had been doing and feeling during the past 15 minutes. That study  again showed that people derived less enjoyment from face-to-face interactions if they had been using their phones.

“Just having phones out and available makes people feel more distracted,” says Dunn, who will be presenting the research at the convention. “So, by tucking phones away during social interactions, we can increase our odds of really connecting with the people around us.”

Dunn’s talk, Phones at the Dinner Table, is part of The Psychological Consequences of Technological Advances symposium taking place March 2, at 8:00 a.m. ET. The session addresses the psychological consequences of technology and is one of over 80 scientific sessions at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Study: Ryan Dwyer, Kostadin Kushlev, Elizabeth Dunn. Smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

All data have been made publicly available via the Open Science Framework. The data for Study 1 can be viewed at, and the data for Study 2 can be viewed at


Sidebar: Convention
Sidebar: Press Contact
Read Our Blog