Do Smartphones Make Us Stupid?
Smartphones ironically makes stupid. That's what the science says. Having our phones in close proximity to us while we work reduces our cognitive ability.
I came across research published in the Journal for the Association of Consumer Research in 2017. The title of the study is “Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity.” As soon as I read the title, I knew it was going to be an exciting read.
The researchers argue that the mere presence of a smartphone may occupy “limited-capacity cognitive resources, thereby leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive performance.”
In the experiment, the researchers randomly assigned participants into three groups. Group 1 placed their devices on their desk; Group 2, in their pocket or bag; and Group 3 in a separate room. Precipitants were then asked to undertake several cognitive capacity tests, to test things like working memory capacity and fluid intelligence.
The results show that precipitants who left their phones in other rooms scored highest in the cognitive tests, while those who kept their phones on their desk scored lowest. Although none of the participants used their phones during the experiment, the research showed that proximity to your phone shows a decline in participants’ cognitive ability.
The paper concludes that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention, i.e. they can successfully avoid the temptation to check their phones, the mere presence of the device reduces their available cognitive capacity.
Having smartphones in near us while working makes us stupid.
I have always understood that I’m more productive without my phone near me while working - even before having sight of the research. It’s why you’ll never catch my phone anywhere near me while I’m working.
My phone is always in the same place throughout the day and at night. On a shelf, along with my wallet and keys. It rarely ever makes an appearance in my room, which means my phone isn’t the first or last thing that I look at each day.
This way, my phone becomes a tool that I use deliberately. Not one that uses me, or has no concern for my attention, when a notification comes in.
If you want to get any serious amount of work done, keep your phones in another room away from reach. Because our smartphones ironically make stupid.
Have an awesome week ahead,
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This Week's Wisdom
"“What we know at this point,” Shakya told NPR, “is that we have evidence that replacing your real-world relationships with social media use is detrimental to your well-being.”"
- In the book Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport
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