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Is Your Smartphone Emasculating?

Vivia Chen

July 25, 2013

©-Aaron-Amat---Fotolia.comThink size is irrelevant to performance? Hah! As Anthony Weiner has drummed into our collective consciousness, size is everything.

Not to worry, I'm not about to delve into that well of yuckiness. In fact, I'm not talking about sex at all (well, I guess that depends on how you read it).

My only concern is your job performance. So let me give you the latest from Harvard Business School: The size of your favorite tech tool can boost or diminish your efficacy. In a nutshell: Bigger is better. "Using small gadgets makes people less assertive," reports The Wall Street Journal about the HBS study. "Those who use larger gadgets come across as more assertive."

What's more, reports WSJ, small gadgets could decrease your testosterone. Whoa—that goes right smack to your manhood! (Though the study didn't focus on gender differences, I have to assume that this hits home harder for men than women.) Hey, if that's not prompting you guys to trade your little iPhones for some clunky circa 1999 mobile phone, I don't what will.

HBS researchers Maarten Bos and Amy Cuddy conducted the study by randomly assigning participants to use an iPod Touch (similar to an iPhone), iPad, laptop or desktop computer to complete certain tasks. Participants were told that they could seek out the research monitor or wait for the monitor to come to them once they finished to collect their pay.

Their finding: The size of the device substantially affected whether the participant took initiative. The Harvard Business School site reports: "Of the participants using a desktop computer, 94 percent took the initiative to fetch the experimenter. For those using the iPod Touch, only 50 percent left the room."

HBS reports: "The bigger the device was, the shorter the wait time." In other words, you are as forceful as the size of your tool! (Again, no Anthony Weiner jokes, please.)

According to HBS, this study is a continuation of other studies by the authors about body posture and power. Their hypothesis is that "interacting with larger devices [compared to smaller ones] would lead to more expansive body postures, which in turn would lead to behaviors associated with power—including assertiveness and risk-taking behavior."

The study is ongoing, according to HBS, but "the initial lab results suggest it may be a good idea to avoid the smartphone immediately before your next big sales meeting. Texting up until the boss starts speaking may make you look busy, but it may make you act meek."

The next time you mess up on a negotiation or lose a motion, you might have your super-cool iPhone to blame.

So I'm curious: Is this why lawyers usually use BlackBerrys? Are they inherently more macho?

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.


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My brain shrunk from reading this drivel. STUPID!

I don't like Blackberry, droids all the way!

Too interesting. You'd have more closed, hunched posture with a smaller devise. Certainly not a power position recommended by Amy Cuddy. http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

Women and their iPhones,,,those apps. still beat Blackberry...

Happy Friday!

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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