Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin made a surprising discovery regarding how smartphones affect the brain. They found that study participants with phones in another room drastically outperformed others whose phones were on their desk.
The researchers intended to examine if the presence of smartphones impacted people’s cognitive capacity. They enrolled nearly 800 smartphone users for the study. These participants completed a series of cognitive tests that required their undivided attention. In other words, researchers wanted to see how well the brain can hold and process information, when a smartphone is present.
In one experiment, a group of participants had their smartphones nearby and within view, although they were not using them. Another group, researchers asked the participants to place their smartphones in a bag, pocket or even another room. Regardless of phone location, all participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.
The findings were fascinating. Researchers discovered that the proximity of their smartphones affected participants’ cognitive capacity. The participants who had their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with phones on a desk. They also outperformed the participants whose phones were in a bag or pocket, although less noticeably.
McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward, who co-authored the study, stated:
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 to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.
Already, there are growing concerns about the potential impact that smartphone use has on health. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, declared cell phones a Class B Carcinogen, meaning a “possible cancer-causing agent,” based on the available research. (source) This puts cell phones in the same category as diesel engine exhaust, some pesticides, and some heavy metals.
Now, researchers have revealed that the mere presence of a smartphone impairs brain function. Even when you think you’re not thinking about your smartphone, you are subconsciously fighting the urge to give it more of your attention.
If you want to make the most of your productivity, seems leaving the smartphone in the other room might be a good call.
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