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Study shows your smartphone makes you dumber, even when you’re not using it

Published Jun 26th, 2017 9:33PM EDT
smartphone distraction
Image: Shutterstock

Smartphones have been hailed as world-changing gadgets that provide humanity with a constant connection to the rest of the world, and all the knowledge it has to offer. But what if they’re actually hindering us? We’ve all felt the unbearable itch to check in on social media, flip through a couple of new Snapchat pics, or play just five more minutes of our favorite mobile games, and now a new study reveals that the ever-present temptation that smartphones create is actually reducing our brainpower, even if we refuse to give in.

The study, which was conducted by Adrian Ward of the University of Texas at Austin and his colleagues, measured the brain power of over 700 smartphone users while performing a variety of tasks. The participants were asked to complete various tests which measured their cognitive abilities in an effort to gauge the amount of information their brains could handle. Each of the individuals was selected at random to place their smartphone either in their pocket, on the desk at which they were sitting, or in a totally separate room.

Researchers noted that the subjects who were instructed to put their phones in a different room handily outperformed those who had their devices readily available, while the participants who had their phones in their pockets also beat out those whose phones were visible on the desk in front of them.

The study suggests that even the mere presence of your smartphone can actively hinder your ability to process information and carry out tasks, even if you’re not actually using it.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” Ward noted. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.” So, if you have anything to get done today, maybe just leave your phone in a drawer or something.