Smartphones are a huge part of our lives. We use them for just about everything. And why not? They’re so convenient and they make life easier. But research shows that smartphones not only increase anxiety and distractions, but they also weaken our intellect and cognitive function. It might be time to ask how smart it is to use our smartphones as much as we do.
Back in 2015, the Journal of Experimental Psychology published a study called, “The attentional cost of receiving a cell phone notification.” In it, they found that merely seeing or hearing a notification on your smartphone – whether you respond to it or not – leads to “irrelevant thoughts, or mind wandering, which has been shown to damage task performance.”
The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication also published research on how iPhones impact the self, cognition, anxiety and the physiology of users when they weren’t able to answer their phones while completing cognitive tasks.
They found that when participants received iPhone notifications but couldn’t respond, their blood pressure increased along with their levels of anxiety. But on top of these physiological reactions, these iPhone users had a harder time with problem-solving skills.
The negative impact of smartphones on your brain extends past using it or being notified. Just having it nearby can have a negative impact on your cognitive capacity according to this 2017 study.
In fact, researchers found that just having your smartphone nearby can compromise “working memory capacity and functional fluid intelligence,” or the ability to interpret a situation and find resolutions to new problems.
We might not be able to toss our smartphones, but it might be a good idea to keep it in your handbag or in another room when you need to focus on important tasks and avoid distraction.