Can’t remember the name of that restaurant, or exactly where the exit was on the highway? Most of us now turn to our smartphones for the answers, but having them around is making us dumber.
Here’s what it’s all about: researchers from the University of Texas at Austin were curious to know what kind of effect the constant use of mobile devices is having on our brain.
To come up with some findings, McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users. They wanted to see how well people completed mental tasks when their smartphone was nearby, compared with when they were ‘deviceless’.
Surprisingly, they found that simply having your phone in the same room, (even if it’s turned off!) reduces your cognitive capacity.
How did they do it? Participants were involved in a variety of studies. In one, researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests to measure their concentration. Participants were asked to turn their phone to silent, and either place it on the desk, face down, in front of them, put it away in a pocket or bag, or place it in an entirely different room.
Sadly, those who put their phone in another room significantly outperformed those who had their phone on their desk. They also did slightly better than those who put their phone away, but still had it nearby.
As professor Ward explained, “”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.”
Solution? If you’re trying to honestly learn something, turn it off and leave it at home. Or, in a locker or bag where you’ll forget about it, at least for the moment.
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