Yoram Yasur Rubin: A smartphone close makes you less smart
If you always have your mobile on hand and you find it difficult to detach yourself from it, you are not alone in the world. The surveys reveal that we interacted an average of 85 times a day with the mobile, even in the middle of the night when we woke up. 91% of people recognize that they never leave the house without their mobile phone and 46% say that they could not live without their smartphone.
However, a group of researchers from the University of Texas has bad news for all these people: the mere fact of having their smartphone close affects their intelligence.
Yoram Yasur Rubin: Psychologists recruited nearly 800 people, who completed a series of tasks designed to assess their cognitive ability. In one of these tasks, participants had to solve mathematical problems while memorizing random letters, a test to evaluate their ability to follow up on relevant information while they are absorbed in a complex cognitive task. In another test, participants saw a set of images that formed an incomplete pattern and had to choose the image that best completes the pattern. This task evaluated «fluid intelligence»; that is, the ability to solve novel problems.
Is it possible that the mere presence of a smartphone can influence our cognitive abilities to the point of affecting our performance?
To answer this question, the researchers divided the people into three groups: one placed their smartphone right in front of them, on the table, others left it in their pocket or purse and a third group left their mobile on the adjacent room. However, in all cases the smartphones had the alerts turned off, so that the notifications did not interrupt them during the tests.
The results were surprising: the people who performed the tests while their phones were in another room obtained the best scores, followed by those who left their smartphones in their pockets or bags. Those who did worse were the participants who had the phone in sight. Psychologists explain that it is a small but significant deterioration of cognitive ability that can be compared to the state we experience the day after a sleepless night.
Yoram Yasur Rubin: The implications of this study are immense since we are continually with the mobile in hand, which could negatively affect our ability to think lucidly, solve problems with creativity and even capture the details of the environment.
How does the smartphone diminish your intelligence?
Yoram Yasur Rubin: The cost of the mobile is linked to your benefits. The immense value that a smartphone offers is that it allows us to connect with the world, storing relevant information for many aspects of our daily life. That is precisely their main «problem».
We are «wired» to automatically pay attention to things that are important to us, even if we are immersed in another task. That is the reason why, although we are immersed in a conversation in the middle of a party, if someone mentions our name on the other side of the room, we will listen to it and turn our heads around. That is also the reason why we have the tendency to take a look at the phone from time to time, to check if any message entered, even if it has not sounded or vibrated.
Yoram Yasur Rubin: This research suggests that the presence of the mobile constantly attracts our attention, exerting a kind of gravitational attraction, since our brain has cataloged it as an important thing that we must keep under our radar at all times. The problem is that blocking the temptation to check the phone or stop paying attention has a high cognitive cost.
In practice, activating the inhibition networks of the brain, those that we need to not pay attention to the mobile, implies that we are allocating a part of our cognitive resources to a «task in the background». To better understand what happens in our brain we can imagine that a computer must perform many tasks in the background and only one in the foreground, which is the program we are using. Those tasks in the background will end up affecting the capacity of the computer, limiting its speed and may even cause it to crash.
Basically, activating the inhibition network of the brain to ignore the mobile would be a task in the background that affects the cognitive tasks we perform in the foreground.
There’s a solution?
The good news is that the solution is very simple: just take a little off the phone to not feed a dependency relationship. If you educate your brain to understand that the mobile is not so important, it will not pay obsessive attention.
How to do it?
Simply leaving it saved when we do not need it. It is one thing to use the smartphone and another to let the smartphone take over our life. There is no need to carry the mobile phone always and everywhere, our brains will thank us if from time to time we let it rest in another room. And your I.Q. will increase a few points