A new mobile phone app has been developed to analyse the content of your text messages and warn you of bad news before you open them.
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The app, created by a team at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Computing, uses previous behaviour to determine whether you’ll view the message contained in the text as positive, negative or neutral - and colour codes it to reflect this.
The app allows users to decide when they open potentially stressful messages, allowing them to brace themselves, or put off opening them.
"The application works by learning from past messages how the user perceives the content as being positive, negative or objective," said lead researcher Dr Mohamed Gaber told BBC News. "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."
But some experts are unconvinced an app could read the subtle language signals we use and warned that anticipating bad news could actually worsen stress levels.
Psychologist Pamela Briggs is skeptical, “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.
"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."
Would you trust your phone to keep bad news from you?