Science

Your brain power is reduced by your smartphone, even when it’s off

The mere presence of a smartphone, no matter if it’s on or off, affects its owner’s cognitive skills and reduces their working capacity, according to a new study conveyed by the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
Researchers came to this startling conclusion by conducting several experiments, during which study participants were asked to sit at a computer and take a series of tests. Before beginning, most of the participants were asked to randomly place their smartphones around the table or in their bags and pockets, but a few of them were told to leave their devices in the other room. Also, they were all instructed to turn their phones to silent.
It turned out that the partakers without their smartphones scored significantly better on the tests than the ones with the phones on the table or in the bag. The findings indicate that even when you think you are giving full attention to the task in front of you, the presence of your smartphone unconsciously unsettles you.
“We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” said Assistant Professor Adrian Ward, one of the authors of the study. “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 and his colleagues also found out that it made no difference if a phone is turned on or off, or if it’s laying face up or down. Having a phone in sight and the possibility of using it is enough to make its owner lose focus, because part of the brain is actively struggling to not use the device.

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