From Smartphones to Social Media: How Technology Affects Our Brains and Behavior. By Mark Carrier. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2018. Acid free $94 (ISBN 978-1-4408-5178-0). E-book Available (978-1-4408-5179-7), call for pricing.

Many consider the release of the Apple iPhone in 2007 as being the moment, and the device, that brought the smartphone into the hands of millions of consumers. Today, smartphones and social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are ingrained into the human experience for countless millions of people. But how do these technologies and social spaces impact our brains and the ways in which they function? From Smartphones to Social Media: How Technology Affects Our Brains and Behavior attempts to help clarify these questions, and many more, as they pertain to the technology we carry with us every day and the digital social spaces that we access and participate on with these devices.

According to author Mark Carrier, “This book focuses on the most recent five to ten years of research into new ICT (information and communications technologies)” (p. xiii). This single-volume reference set is organized into ten chapters. Each chapter runs about 25 pages in length, resulting in a lean 250 page count. Several subheadings provide structure and flow within each chapter and make finding desired information within the book easier, given the length of each chapter. Topics covered in this set include social relationships, electronic aggression, dating and sexual behavior, information and attention, and emotions. The volume concludes with a glossary of terms used throughout the set, a section of citations for curious researchers to continue their research, and an index.

Easily one of the more unique features of this volume is found at the end of each chapter. After the conclusion of each chapter, Mark Carrier includes a section called “Interview with an Expert,” where a psychologist specializing in the content of the chapter provides additional insight into the topic in the form of an interview. Questions posed to these experts include “When someone is driven to use technology, what is happening in his or her brain biochemically?” (p. 122) and “What does research say about the impact of technology on positive and negative emotions?” (p. 223). Each interview adds greatly to the content covered in the chapter and sets it apart from many other, similar reference sets.

If there is a critique one could levy against this volume, it would be related to the overall writing style and structure of the set. The lengthy chapters are all written in a style, flow, and structure that is typically found in many traditional, nonreference psychology books. One can easily find themselves reading this book cover-to-cover, rather than seeking a specific piece of information on a specific topic quickly and then moving on to another source. For this reason, many might decide that this set would better serve its readers in a circulating collection, as opposed to a noncirculating reference collection.

The content contained in this set will be of great value to psychology students studying the impact of communication technologies and social media on human behavior. The “Interview with an Expert” section located at the end of each chapter is a unique feature that adds to the value of this set. It is an easy volume to recommend be added to academic libraries. That being said, it’s more textbook-like structure lends it to be read cover-to-cover, which is not a typical characteristic for a reference set. Many might find it a better fit as a circulating volume within their library.—Matthew Laudicina, Senior Reference Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections, New York State Library, Albany, New York.


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