Smartphones and Close Relationships: The Case for an Evolutionary Mismatch

David A. Sbarra, Julia L. Briskin, Richard B. Slatcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This article introduces and outlines the case for an evolutionary mismatch between smartphones and the social behaviors that help form and maintain close social relationships. As psychological adaptations that enhance human survival and inclusive fitness, self-disclosure and responsiveness evolved in the context of small kin networks to facilitate social bonds, promote trust, and enhance cooperation. These adaptations are central to the development of attachment bonds, and attachment theory is a middle-level evolutionary theory that provides a robust account of the ways human bonding provides for reproductive and inclusive fitness. Evolutionary mismatches operate when modern contexts cue ancestral adaptations in a manner that does not provide for their adaptive benefits. We argue that smartphones and their affordances, although highly beneficial in many circumstances, cue humans’ evolved needs for self-disclosure and responsiveness across broad virtual networks and, in turn, have the potential to undermine immediate interpersonal interactions. We review emerging evidence on the topic of technoference, which is defined as the ways in which smartphone use may interfere with or intrude into everyday social interactions. The article concludes with an empirical agenda for advancing the integrative study of smartphones, intimacy processes, and close relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-618
Number of pages23
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • evolutionary mismatch
  • intimacy
  • relationships
  • smartphones
  • technoference
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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