The Grapevine

Smartphones May Distract You And Cause 'Brain Drain' Even When They're Turned Off

Your smartphone really is messing with your brain. A new study says that even keeping your cell nearby lowers our cognitive skills. Futurity.org reports that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin enlisted almost 800 people to measure how well we can accomplish things when our phones are close, even if we’re not browsing Instagram or sending texts.

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According to Futurity, participants completed computer assessments that measured how well everyone could retain information. Each test required no distractions and complete concentration. Prior to getting started, subjects put their phones on silent mode and placed them face down on the desk, in a pocket or a completely separate room. People who were separated from their phones did much better on the tests than those who had their phones out in the open on their desks; however, they only performed a little bit better than those who kept them tucked in a pocket or purse.

iphone-410311_1280 If you want to be productive, put your phone in another room. Pixabay

“We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Adrian Ward, an assistant professor at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement.

“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,” Ward explained of the findings.

The researchers performed the experiment again, but had certain people turn off their phones. Even with the phones essentially dead, people were more distracted and performed worse when the phones were in sight.

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

Smartphones have gotten a lot of bad publicity for all of the ways that they might impact our lives. Driving while on the phone, even when using a headset, is notably dangerous as research has shown that it has caused a spike in traffic fatalities.

Last year, a survey from CareerBuilder of more than 2,000 employers found that bosses think their workers aren’t being productive. According to the company, about one in five employers believe employees are actually working less than five hours a day, an extremely low estimation considering the typical eight-hours spent at the office. More than half of these bosses think that cell phone use and texting is the biggest productivity sap.

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Not only are smartphones draining our brains of power, they answer a lot of our tough questions for us. Real Simple reports that scientists tested more than 600 people on their smartphone habits and found that people who often make gut decisions rely on their phones for answers rather than thinking things through without the help of Google. People who are more logical, however, used their phones less to search for answers. 

Bottom line, if you're trying to study or have a big project to complete, it's better to keep your phone out of sight. 

See Also:

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Smartphone Addiction Can Lead To Problems At Home, Work, And With Friends, According To Study​

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