New research published in the journal PLOS ONE indicates that mobile phones are changing how we walk.
Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University investigated how mobile phone use affects where people look and how they negotiate a floor-based obstacle in their walking path.
Participants walked towards and then stepped over the object while wearing an eye tracker and motion sensor.
This was done while writing a text, reading a text, talking on the phone, and without a phone.
The scientists found that when using a phone, people look less frequently and for less time at the obstacle.
In the study, the relative amount of time spent looking at the obstacle was reduced by up to 61%.
Phone users also adopted a cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy, which involved lifting their lead foot higher and slower over the obstacle.
The study found that writing a text results in the greatest adaptations in visual search behaviour and walking style, compared to reading texts or talking on a phone.
When writing a text, the time taken to clear the obstacle – compared to not using a phone – was 40% slower.