You’ve temporarily misplaced your cell phone and anxiously retrace your steps to try to find it. Or perhaps you never let go of your phone—it's always in your hand, your pocket, or your bag, ready to be answered or consulted at a moment’s notice. When your battery life runs down at the end of the day, you feel that yours is running low as well. New research shows that there’s a psychological reason for such extreme phone dependence: According to the attachment theory, for some of us, our phone serves the same function as the teddy bear we clung to in childhood.
Attachment theory proposes that our early life experiences with parents responsible for our well-being, are at the root of our connections to the adults with whom we form close relationships. Importantly, attachment in early life can extend to inanimate objects. Teddy bears, for example, serve as “transitional objects.” The teddy bear, unlike the parent, is always there. We extend our dependence onparents to these animals, and use them to help us move to an independent sense of self.
A cell phone has the potential to be a “compensatory attachment” object. Although phones are often castigated for their addictive potential, scientists cite evidence that supports the idea that “healthy, normal adults also report significant emotional attachment to special objects”
Indeed, cell phones have become a pervasive feature of our lives: The number of cell phone users exceeds the total population of the planet. The average amount of mobile or smartphone use in the U.S. is 3.3 hours per day. People also like to be near their phones: A 2013 survey cited by the Hungarian team. Nearly as many people report being distressed when they’re separated from their phone.Phones have distinct advantages. They can be kept by your side and they provide a social connection to the people you care about. Even if you’re not talking to your friends, lover, or family, you can keep their photos close by, read their messages, and follow them on social media. You can track them in real time but also look back on memorable moments together. These channels help you “feel less alone”.