Introduction and operationalization of Technology-Induced Disassociation Syndrome (TIDS).
Subject: Dissociation (Psychology) (Development and progression)
Interpersonal communication (Management)
Communications equipment (Usage)
Social norms (Influence)
Author: Jones, Marshall
Pub Date: 03/22/2010
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Spring, 2010 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Computer Subject: Cellular transmission equipment; Telecommunications equipment; Company business management
Product: Product Code: 3660000 Communications Equipment; 9108315 Telecom Equip & Service Standards NAICS Code: 3342 Communications Equipment Manufacturing; 92613 Regulation and Administration of Communications, Electric, Gas, and Other Utilities
Accession Number: 222558226

Observing behavioral changes in humans over time is challenging because there are so many changes, and they can be so gradual, they can go unnoticed. Rapid technology advances and affordability of text-friendly cell phones, smart phones, music players, and gaming systems has led to a dramatic increase in instantaneous methods of communication, sharing data, and entertainment. Even the casual observer notes the impact technology has had on automobile drivers, pedestrians, and others who share their daily environments.

All too frequently we see drivers cognitively disengaged from driving due to texting or being focused on their cell phone conversations.

We have to be increasingly conscious of pedestrians engaged with both headphones and texting, walking zombie-like on campuses, malls, and streets while being unaware of their surroundings. There seem to be more oblivious people loudly sharing personal communications in a line at the bank or restaurant, not noticing the glares of others that find such intrusions to be inconsiderate and a violation of social norms. Active listening and good interpersonal communication skills are essential to professional and social settings. These human interactions are commonly becoming secondary to the ring of a cell phone or a twitter of an incoming text, where the other party of the live in-person conversation is placed on hold until the technological communication is completed. The all too common practice of instantaneous disengagement from an in-person conversation to check for calls or text messages without the courtesy "excuse me" can pose interpersonal and professional problems. Those accustomed to more traditional social norms and conventions find the behavior rude and unprofessional.


While these behaviors are becoming more commonplace, their long-term importance in social, developmental, and safety domains may not be receiving the attention they warrant. There is little effort to define what many people notice in these behaviors and provide a common frame of reference for discussion and exploration. The potential dangers to youth and adolescents in terms of development of social interaction, interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence, and situational awareness critical to social and professional interaction have yet to be explored and disseminated. Parents, educators, clinicians, and society need to find a framework for discussing the behaviors that most people notice but do not easily define.


The first step to further research is to operationalize a phenomenon. Therefore, we will define Technology-Induced Disassociation Syndrome (TIDS) as observable behavior where the subject is:

* Cognitively disengaged, by choice or circumstance, from the real-life environment and/or situation due to a technology or multiple technologies and/or virtual interaction or environment.

* Seems oblivious to the environment around him or her, including dangers, while focused primarily on the technology being utilized.

* Is focused on the technology over the real environment.

* Exhibits a lack of situational awareness, or in youth, the opportunity to develop situational awareness.

Why it is Important

Defining and exploring TIDS is important primarily for public safety as well as child and adolescent development. The public safety aspect is hard to dispute. Traffic accidents resulting from drivers engaged with cell phones or texting is widely documented. Many states are enacting laws to prohibit texting and cell phone use in an attempt to save lives and give law enforcement prevention options.

The impact on child and adolescent development is an area in desperate need for exploration and public awareness. Parents, educators, and counselors need to develop an awareness of how TIDS could lead to underdeveloped face-to-face interpersonal and communication skills and how it could impact emotional intelligence and situational awareness. These skills are critical in one's personal life, academia, and professional situations. It is also important to recognize that adapting to technology has positive attributes, even at early ages, and that there is value in seeking a balanced approach to skill development in technology-based and conventional interactions.

Societal communication and social norms are also being impacted; these areas are worthy of discussion to help establish common norms and expectations of how technology should be used in various settings, particularly professional environments. This is important to avoid interpersonal conflicts and misunderstandings based on potentially discordant expectations of communication priorities and methods. In some cases, texting is operationally a second language for people, and therefore clarifying electronic communication etiquette becomes increasingly critical. Electronic communications by nature lose nuances seen in in-person interactions, such as pitch, tone, modulation, and body language. When tech-savvy individuals electronically communicate with those who are not versed, it may as well be Latin to the receiver.

Further Research

Behaviors associated with TIDS warrant academic debate and exploration, as their long-term consequences on safety and interpersonal communication are difficult to dismiss. Additional behavioral domains associated with TIDS are likely to emerge given the pace that technology becomes integrated into everyday life. Public discussion may spark increased awareness and discussion about the need for technology and interpersonal balance. This article is written with the goal of sparking debate and inspiring research into behaviors operationalized here as TIDS.


Marshall Jones, MS, DABCIP

Marshall Jones, NS, DABCIP is the founder and program coordinator of the Forensic Psychology program at the Florida Institute of Technology where he instructs on human behavior and nonverbal communication with a focus on body language. Mn Jones is a retired police supervisor who continues to consult with law enforcement agencies on promotional processes, leadership, and racial profiling issues, Contact Jones at
Distracted drivers

Driver distraction, such as using hand-held devices, was involved
in 16 percent of all U.S. fatal vehicle crashes in 2008.

Hand-held cell phone use
Percent of drivers, by U.S. region

             2007   2008

Northeast      5%     4%
Midwest        6%     5%
South          8%     7%
West           6%     7%

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Distacted drivers, by age group

16-24       8%
25-69       6%
70 plus     1%

NOTE: Colorado ban effective Dec. 1;
Illinois and Oregon, Jan. 1, 2010

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Graphic: Judy Treible

Note: Table made from bar graph.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.