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How Smartphones Can Make You Dumb

July 10, 2017

A person's cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when their smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off, according to McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-au­thors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smart­phone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study partic­ipants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants’ avail­able cognitive capacity — that is, the brain’s ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before begin­ning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

The findings suggest that the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand. “We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, partici­pants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Ward said. “Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process — the process of requir­ing yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”

But that is not all. Other studies have shown that mi­crowave radiation from cell phones significantly im­pairs brain function. The energy inhibits neurons from firing and sending their chemical messages.

Numerous other studies have shown that the radiation from cell phones damages brain cells and their DNA and the damage is passed on to subsequent cells.

The World Health Organization classifies the micro­wave radiation emitted by cell phones as carcinogen­ic.

While mobile phones may make a person more effec­tive by acting as a second brain, having that second brain also make us dumb by doing things that our own brain could do, such as remembering tasks, stor­ing phone numbers, being a calculator, and so on.

Cell phones can also isolate us socially because we can text simple messages instead of having a mean­ingful and in-depth face-to-face conversation.

Many smartphone users have greatly diminished communication skills and are no longer able to write coherent and complete sentences by hand and have trouble communicating verbally.

One of the reasons that so many people use cell phones is because they are highly addictive. The brain responds to the radiation damage by releasing endorphins, so a cell phone can quickly become like a drug and is in fact the world's drug of choice these days.