Study: the mere presence of a smartphone makes you dumber

We already have evidence that social media and internet addiction may have a detrimental effects on mental health. Now, if you’re in need of more backing to show merit to the spa and wellness industry’s push for digital detox, you’re in luck.

A recent study out of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin has found that just being in the same room as your smart phone significantly reduces cognitive capacity. In other words, smart phones make you dumb – and you don’t even have to be using one for that to happen. (Just as you suspected, right?)

According to a media release, McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted two experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users.

In one, participants were told to turn their phones to silent and randomly assigned to place the phones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room, They then took a series of tests designed to measure available cognitive capacity — which is our ability to retain and process information.

The results? Researchers found that participants with their phones on the desk performed significantly worse that those with their phones in another room, and slightly worse than those with their phones in a pocket or bag.

In another experiment, participants took the same tests as the first group, but were first asked to gauge their own smartphone dependence. This group was randomly assigned to keep their phones either in sight on the desk face up, in a pocket or bag, or in another room. Some were also instructed to turn off their phones.

This time, the most smart-phone dependent participants performed worse than less-dependent ones, but only when they kept their smartphones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.

All this, they say, suggests that having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks.

“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.”

Read more here.

It’s not the first study to suggest smart phones and misuse of technology area making us dumber.

Regarding other effects on the brain and mental health:

According to a study at Leeds University, internet addicts are significantly more likely to suffer from depression than non addicts.

Research has found heavy social media use to be correlated with depression and low self esteem.

A University of Derby study found higher scores of narcissism and levels of neuroticism were linked to smartphone addiction.

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