Preliminary Study of the Psychophysiological Effects of Texting

The use of cellular phones has become almost ubiquitous in the United States and researchers are beginning to examine the use of these devices from a myriad of different perspectives.

For instance, I-Mei Lin of the National Chung Cheng University in Taiwan and Erik Peper of San Francisco State University have found that certain psychophysiological patterns are associated with sending and receiving text messages.

Their research was published in the interdisciplinary journal Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback in 2009.

Lin and Peper monitored the respiration, heart rate, finger temperature, skin conduction, and the electrical activity of muscles in the hand of twelve college students while they sent and received text messages.

“For many participants, receiving text messages evoked arousal as indicated by breath holding or shallow breathing and increased muscle tension and skin conduction,” as Lin and Peper explain.

TextingThey found that when sending a text message the participants stabilized their trunk, tightened their neck and shoulder muscles, moved their head forward, and breathed shallow and rapidly. In addition, their heart rate, skin conduction, and the electrical activity in their muscles all increased.

“This immobilized position combined with increased sympathetic arousal, neck and shoulder tension, and shallow breathing, if triggered frequently, could contribute to developing musculoskeletal disorders, pain, or repetitive strain injury.”

Although texting may contribute to the development of these disorders, as Lin and Peper note, further research is needed to better understand the long term effects of texting.

“The preliminary findings are based upon 12 participants and long term epidemiological and physiological studies need to be done to investigate the relationships between physiological discomfort/symptoms, gender and the use of small handheld digital devices with LCD screens.”


Lin, I.M. & Peper, E. (2009). Psychophysiological patterns during cell phone text messaging: a preliminary study. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback, Vol 34: 53-57.