Look at Me: Does a Smartphone in Line of Sight Impact Learning?

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Fall 2021


Smartphones are constant companions of college students. They allow students to maintain relationships with parents and peers, instantly connect with news, learn, and play. Students are often asked to silence or turn their phone off when in class, with the assumption that this will improve learning. In other cases, instructors utilize smartphones in class for quizzing to assess current learning status. In online courses students may vary in terms of whether a smartphone is present. The purpose of this study was to determine if the presence of a smartphone hinders learning. The study occurred online with 194 participants aged 18 to 70 years. Participants were instructed to place their phone in another room, on the desk face up, or in the same room but out of sight. Then they studied a list of Lithuanian-English translations, and their memory of these translations was assessed along with their confidence of their responses. They also completed a smartphone dependency survey and a questionnaire with check questions. Data analysis from the manipulation check led to the addition of a fourth condition, smartphone on the desk face down. The hypothesis that when a smartphone is in the line of sight individuals will remember fewer translations and have poorer performance in monitoring the accuracy of their responses was not found. Nor did the study show support for the hypothesis that mobile phone addiction and smartphone placement would interact to impact memory performance and monitoring accuracy. The interaction of smartphones in line of sight and smartphone dependence does not appear to impact learning. The study did draw attention to participant compliance in online research and the importance of manipulation check questions. Because this study’s findings conflict with prior research further exploration is recommended via online research and the laboratory, and with expansion to classroom or workplace training environments.


Lacy Krueger

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences