It’s long been theorised that smartphones and people’s obsession with constantly looking at them has been ruining society. In support of this, a new study from the University of Texas claims that merely looking at them is enough to make you dumber.
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The research concluded that just having a smartphone in your presence reduces your attention span and intelligence, having discovered that people were worse at conducting tasks and remembering information if one was in the vicinity. They realised this after finding that subjects scored worse in tests if a phone was on their desk or in their pocket or handbag, even if the phone wasn’t even switched on.
520 participants were required to complete exams on mathematics, reasoning and memory with their smartphones in different positions, with alerts off so as not to distract them. Those who left their phones on the desk scored 10% worse across the board than those who left them in another room – this result was only slightly bettered for those keeping them in their pocket/bag too. Reaction times were also lower for those who had the phone on their desk.
Lead author Dr Adrian Ward tried to explain the effect by saying the following:
Although these devices have immense potential to improve welfare, their persistent presence may come at a cognitive cost.
Even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention – as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones – the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capability.
We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases.
Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process – the process of requiring yourself not to think about something – uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.
So basically if your phone is in your eyeshot, you’re actively training your brain not to think about it whilst you’re doing something else, which is kinda weird. I figured you would just be thinking about checking it all the time or just actually checking it rather than trying not to. Either way, it makes you dumber if you have it around you all the time, so maybe try leaving it in your locker or at home when you’re working or doing anything that requires intelligence. Just saying.
For more of the same, check out this guy talking about everything that is wrong with millennials. Mainly revolving around smartphones.