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Kabele Cook

Shades of Grey: Color Vision and the Smartphone

In an era of prolific smartphone use, many have sought out ‘hacks’ to reducing ‘Screen Time’ or time in which visual attention is on the display of a smartphone. The media popularized the technique of using an iOS accessibility setting—a ‘Greyscale’ display filter—to eliminate the presumably alluring and attention-grabbing color stimuli from the smartphone visual experience. This manipulation to smartphones is poorly understood in how it impacts smartphone usage metrics beyond individual testimony. In order to rigorously understand the ‘Greyscale’ effect, a longitudinal field study was designed and administered to smartphone users in which their unmodified smartphone usage was compared to their usage with the ‘greyscale’ visual experience manipulation. The experiment’s findings are situated within current scholarship of human color vision and its impact on visual attention, foraging and search. Results from the study suggest that the change in time spent on participants’ smartphones did not significantly change in total time spent, in ‘Social Networking’ usage, nor in specific day of the week usage. The results of this study emphasize the importance of rigorously analyzing hypotheses presented by qualitative self-report as well as the difficulties inherent in drawing significant conclusions about smartphone behavior. Understanding the individual and collective visual experience of the smartphone device proves to be extraordinarily complex and is a line of questioning with many questions yet to be answered by scientists, scholars and consumers alike.

Sector A


Advisors: Zab Johnson (WH), Gregory Vershbow (VLST)