The mere presence of your smartphone makes you more dumb, even when it is on silent, new research finds.
It doesn’t even matter if it is turned off!
So, leaving your smartphone in another room actually makes you smarter.
The study found that when people had their smartphones with them, their cognitive capacity was reduced.
Cognitive capacity is the ability to hold and process information in the mind.
Dr Adrian Ward, the study’s first author, said:
“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.”
People who left their smartphones in another room performed the best on cognitive tests, the study found.
The researchers tried all sorts of variations to check the effects.
Some people had their smartphones:
- face up,
- face down,
- turned on,
- and turned off.
It didn’t matter, as long as the smartphone was near them, it decreased their brain power.
The only way to get rid of the smartphone disadvantage was put it in your pocket or, better yet, to put it in another room.
Dr Ward said:
“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones.
The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”
The researchers also tested how dependent people were on their phones.
How strongly, they were asked, did they feel they needed their smartphone to get through a typical day?
The researchers found that the most dependent people were the most put off when their phone was in the same room with them.
Once it was totally out of the room, then it didn’t have the same negative effect.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research (Ward et al., 2017).