Mobile Phones, User Behaviour, Radiation Effects and Cognitive Performance

  • Jo Fowler

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rationale. Mobile phones have rapidly become an essential technology in people’s lives. Despite the many benefits they offer, research shows there have been negative outcomes related to usage behaviour, and health.
Background. Dramatic shifts in science change world-views; and most recently in the digital technology revolution. The mobile phone is at the forefront of this. The research question of this thesis is concerned with whether the use of the mobile phone has created a dramatic shift in patterns of human behaviour and communication. It also investigates whether use is a health risk and if radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMFs) affect cognitive performance of the user.
Method. Usage patterns and health concerns in young people are explored through self-report enquiry of questionnaires and interviews. These are followed by experiments to find out if radiation effects from using a mobile phone affect attention and memory.
Results and Discussion. Results confirm many benefits of use, particularly for communication, but many detrimental effects, including a range of health concerns. Significant results are found for lateralised and mood effects of RF EMF exposure. A check list is proposed as a contribution towards a standardised protocol for experimental work in this area.
Conclusions. Functions that afford communication continue to be the main function of the mobile phone. The way in which users communicate has changed over the two-year period of this study. Two experiments investigating the effect of RF effects showed significant lateralised results in visual tasks. Despite the many benefits users experience with mobile phones, caution is recommended for use. This has relevance for users, mobile phone manufacturers and network providers. Guidance and regulation are essential to encourage and monitor ‘safe’ use of phones.
Date of Award6 Nov 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorJan Noyes (Supervisor)

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