Date of Completion


Embargo Period



phubbing, cell phone, immediacy, rejection sensitivity, empathy

Major Advisor

Ross Buck

Associate Advisor

Amanda Denes

Associate Advisor

John Christensen

Associate Advisor

Ronald P. Rohner

Field of Study

Communication Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The introduction of cell phone technology continues to influence relational communication. Pilot testing sought to understand if the mere presence of a phone causes individuals to feel snubbed by their conversation partners, but failed to find a direct effect of cell phone presence on any key communication outcome. Therefore, the present two-part study explored the impact of cell phone usage (i.e., phubbing), rather than presence alone, during face-to-face communication. Utilizing interpersonal acceptance-rejection theory, study one examined the impact of phubbing on perceptions of acceptance and rejection within parent-child relationships. Then, drawing upon developmental interactionist theory, study two examined the influence of phubbing on immediacy (i.e., nonverbal signaling which indicates psychological availability), and relationship satisfaction depending upon rejection sensitivity and affect receiving ability within adult romantic relationships. Findings suggest that parental phubbing indirectly reduces remembrances of parental acceptance. In turn parental acceptance was connected to decreased reports of rejection sensitivity, but only in father/son relationships. Both rejection sensitivity and parental phone usage predicted phone addiction and phubbing among adult children. Rejection sensitivity was also positively associated with reports of phubbing among romantic partners. Satisfaction with partner phone usage fully mediated the negative association between partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction, and immediacy partially mediated the positive association between satisfaction with partner phone usage and relationship satisfaction. Affect receiving ability was positively associated with levels of satisfaction with partner phone usage. Together, findings highlight the negative effects of cell phone usage during face-to-face communication.