This Just in, Your Smartphone Could be Making You Stupid

If you think your cell phone is distracting you from your work, you’re right. Researchers have found that our cognitive ability is reduced when a smartphone is in reach, even if it’s turned off.

In the study, 800 smartphone users were analyzed and scored on their ability to complete small tasks when their smartphone was within arm’s reach.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a variety of online tests that required users’ full concentration for a high score. These tests were then used to measure each participants’ cognitive capacity — the brain’s ability to hold and process information.

Before the participants were asked to sit down, they were instructed to either put their smartphone in their pocket or bag, or were asked to place it face down on the desk, or in another room. All participants were asked to keep their phone on silent throughout the experiment.

In the end, researchers found those who had their phones in another room outperformed those who had their phone sitting on the desk. They also scored slightly higher than those who kept their phone in their pocket or a bag. 

"We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants' available cognitive capacity decreases," said Assistant Professor Adrian Ward. "Your conscious mind isn't thinking about your smartphone, but that process — the process of requiring yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It's a brain drain."

In addition, Ward also found that it didn’t matter whether the smartphone was powered on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Just being able to physically see the smartphone itself reduced participants’ cognitive ability.

"It's not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones," Ward said. "The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity."

[Feature Image by Pexels]