Mere Presence of Mobile Phone Significantly Lowers Brain Power, Study Finds

By Amy Taylor on June 29, 2017

Too much screentime can affect your brain function. But even if your mobile phone is off, it still can. That’s the latest findings from McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

 

Researchers conducted experiments in about 800 smartphone users to how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them. They found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

The study also suggests that the mere presence of one’s smartphone lowers cognitive abilities and impairs cognitive functioning, even if the participants were giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand.

"We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases," says McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward.

In one of the experiments, researchers studied how a person’s self-reported smartphone dependence – how strongly a person feels that they need their smartphones to get through a typical day – affected their cognitive capacity.

They found that participants who were the most dependent on their smartphones performed worse compared with their less-dependent peers, but only when they kept their smartphones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.

Interestingly, it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, 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 because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

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

The findings were published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

Source of this article:

Adrian F. Ward et al. Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity

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