UT Study: Smartphones Reduce Cognitive Ability Even When Off

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM)  Smartphones have begun to consume our lives, with some going as far as calling them the addiction no one is diagnosing. But can phones have a negative effect on us even when we’re not using them?

According to a study published by the University of Texas at Austin, phones reduce our cognitive ability when they’re near us even when we’re not using them.

Researchers experimented with 520 college students. Some had their phones in “high salience,” nearby and in sight, others “medium salience,” nearby and out of sight, and the rest in “low salience,” in a different room. The students then took a test.

Those who had their phones in a different room scored better than the other two groups, specifically having much better marks for “working memory capacity” and “fluid intelligence”.

After testing the “brain drain” hypothesis, the students were surveyed. Most of them, 76 percent, claimed that the placement of their phone had no effect at all on their performance. Researchers disagree, of course, and cite the experiment as proof.

They say the “mere presence” of a smartphone has a negative impact on two measures of cognitive capacity—available working memory capacity and functional fluid intelligence.

“The present research identifies a potentially costly side effect of the integration of smartphones into daily life: smartphone-induced ‘brain drain,'” the study reads. “Consumers who were engaged with ongoing cognitive tasks were able to keep their phones not just out of their hands, but also out of their (conscious) minds; however, the mere presence of these devices left fewer attentional resources available for engaging with the task at hand.”

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