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Mobile phones are penis extensions, with men more interested in using the devices to snare a shag than for business purposes.

That's according to a study of Liverpool lads, who apparently like nothing more than to get their phones out and play and fiddle with them in public places. Not so with women, who prefer to keep them safely stashed away in handbags until needed.

And the higher the percentage of males to females, the more the testosterone-packed behaviour increases.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool decided the best way to check out this mobile phone theory was to go down the pub, and got to spend 23 evenings doing just that over a four-month period.

Purely in the interests of science, of course.

Hanging around Liverpool's drinking establishments, they found men liked to sit their phones on the table, move them around, check the battery, and generally make sure everyone saw they had one.

Thirty-two per cent of the men were seen to have a mobile, compared to just 13 per cent of women, The New York Times reported.

And as male rivalry increased, so did the behaviour - researchers compared it to male peacocks fanning out their feathers when more suitors were around.

"What's being displayed here is not so much wealth as social importance, and the fact that you're plugged into a social network and are important enough to be able to be reachable all the time," said Dr Geoffrey Miller, a psychologist at UCLA and author of The Mating Mind.

The research was inspired after nightclubs in South America started asking for mobiles to be checked at the door - and it turned out that a large number of them were fake.

The study, entitled "Mobile Phones as Lekking Devices among Human Males", can be found in the current edition of the journal Human Nature. ®

*A lek is a communal mating area in nature where males strut their stuff and females get their pick of the crop.

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