News — 01 December 2017
Smartphone proximity makes you less smart

Your cognitive capacity is greatly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s turned of. That’s the fndings of a new study from the University of Texas (US) which found that participants whose phones were in another room signifcantly outperformed those with their phones sitting in front of them on a desk. Professor Adrian Ward conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby, even when they’re not using them. The participants were asked to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. Before beginning, they were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent. Those with their phones in another room signifcantly outperformed the ones with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly out performed those who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag. Professor Ward noted: “We see that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, the participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases.” He and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or of, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks. “It’s not that they were being distracted by getting notifcations on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity. It’s a brain drain.”

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