London: A new mobile phone app which will prepare users for receiving good or bad news on their phones, has been developed by computer scientists.
A team from the University of Portsmouth’s School of Computing, made the app that distinguishes good messages from bad and neutral ones, and colour codes them accordingly.
Users have the option of not opening negative messages if they are already having a stressful day.
But some experts believe that ignoring such messages may also be stressful.
For now, the app has been tested on phones running Android OS.
The app automatically colour codes incoming messages, making them green for positive, red for negative and blue for neutral.
This way, a user can see before opening a message whether it is likely to be worrying or not.
“The application works by learning from past messages how the user perceives the content as being positive, negative or objective,” the BBC quoted lead researcher Dr Mohamed Gaber as saying.
“The ultimate objective… is to make the user aware of the negative contents they receive so they are able to manage their stress in the best possible way.
“For example, if most of what is received from social media websites by a user on a particular day was negative, it is important that the user attempts to take an action in order to not get stressed, especially if this may affect the individual’s performance at work and/or their behaviour at home,” he said.
The researcher added that the app comes “pre-trained”, but users are able to self-label any incoming text message to personalise it - as some messages may be perceived in a different way by different users.
But Pamela Briggs, a psychologist from the British Psychological Society, thinks that the main question is whether or not a user can trust that the app will indeed interpret the message correctly.
“Researchers are increasingly able to use various kinds of linguistic analysis to determine message content, and so it is reasonable to assume that some kind of colour coding is viable in this context,” Dr Briggs said.
“But the bigger question is whether or not such an app will genuinely let us manage stress more effectively.
“Imagine that you get a ‘bad’ message from a boss, husband or friend - the researchers suggest that you might want to put this to one side, to open at a more appropriate moment, but stress is often made worse by the anticipation of an unpleasant event and actually dissipated once you tackle the problem directly,” she said.
Dr. Briggs further compared the feature of the app to the “job of a traditional mail envelope - this message is a tax bill, that message is a card from a friend - but taken to an electronic extreme”.
“What if we decide to delete the ‘bad’ message, rather than to read it - and then spend several days worrying about it. I’d like to see some behavioural research on the stress claims made by the authors, before we can assume that it might make our lives easier,” she added.
The study will be presented at the 16th International Conference on Knowledge-Based and Intelligent Information and Engineering Systems in Spain in September.
First Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 14:34