The touch screen is a radical change in the control of machines. For centuries, machines were operated by physical buttons. Perhaps the most important aspect of user experience for a physical device is the sense of touch. Because physical controls offer tactile feedback at all steps of the process, allowing the user to know when they are about to activate a function, when they are activating the function, and when they have finished activating it, a major cognitive load is removed from the conscious mind.
In layman's terms, you know when your finger is on the button. You know when your finger is pushing the button down. You know when the button is down all the way and the button's inherent function is activated. There's a sense of security in knowing that only with a conscious effort to depress a button or flip a switch, will a machine begin a function. The touch screen turns all of this on its head.
I can rest my fingers on a keyboard and know that the keyboard won't suddenly start typing letters. I can put my finger on the trigger of a gun and not worry that it will accidentally discharge. I can rest my foot on the gas pedal without wondering if the car will suddenly lurch forward into the sap in front of me. I cannot run my fingers across an iPad to feel for buttons.
In fact it's worse than simply not having the sense of touch to guide me to the right button. Because today's touch screens do not have pressure sensitivity, even the slightest contact between my finger and the screen could end up sending a dirty joke to my boss instead of my friend or dial someone's number at 3AM. And this is where the real issue lies. Is this combined lack of tactile feedback and hyper-sensitive control making me a nervous wreck?
We spend so much time holding and using our smartphones and tablet computers that they inevitably condition our behavior in the rest of our life. If I am spending hours a day constantly on edge gingerly making sure my fingers daintily dance across the finnicky screen lest I do something disastrous, is it subtly sapping my sense of physical assertiveness? Such a device won't let you hold it the way you'd hold an old school phone or a hammer or a Glock, all of which invite sturdy, assertive grips. I have to make sure the ball of my hand doesn't accidentally hit something. I have to twinklefinger all of the controls rather than mashing my fingers to the right buttons.
To put it another way, if you live in a creaky old building and you have to constantly tiptoe around the house to avoid disturbing roommates, that's absolutely going to have an effect on the way you comport yourself physically elsewhere. Where you may have once confidently strutted, you now tentatively mince around. And research absolutely bears out the fact that your body language affects your confidence and emotions (smiling makes you feel happy, standing in a space-occupying way boosts your confidence while curling up makes you feel weak). There's no way this isn't having a similar effect.
Is there research that vindicates this theory? I'd love to get some substantial statistics to counter what I see as a pernicious trend.