Though our phones are getting smarter, new research suggests they’re actually making us dumber.
A team of researchers at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin set out to test the “brain drain” hypothesis: the theory that simply having your smartphone near you could impact your available cognitive capacity.
The study featured 800 participants who were required to take a test on a computer that required their undivided attention. The participants were divided into three groups that each received different instructions: one group was instructed to place their phones face down on the table next to the computer they were using, another was instructed to leave their phones nearby but out-of-sight, such as in a pocket or bag, and the third group was told to leave their phones in another room.
Prior to the start of the test, all three groups were instructed to turn off all notifications on their phones.
The researchers found that individuals who left their phones in the other room scored higher on a test than those who had their phones nearby, despite the latter group saying they had not been thinking about their phones.
Participants in all three groups self-reported thoughts about their smartphones at the same frequency. The results suggest that the mere presence of one’s smartphone has a measurable impact on an individual’s available cognitive capacity, regardless of if they feel distracted or not.
And so, next time you find yourself really needing to concentrate on something, it might be best to get as far away from your phone as you can.
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