Electronic devices represent an important of most people’s lives, allowing us to stay connected at all times. The downside of that convenience is that many of us are also addicted to the constant pings, chimes, vibrations and other alerts from our devices, unable to ignore new emails, texts and images. In a new study published in NeuroRegulation, San Francisco State University Professor of Health Education Erik Peper and Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey argue that overuse of smart phones is just like any other type of substance abuse.
Having a smartphone nearby reduces cognitive capacity, even when the phone is turned off, new research shows.
A team of investigators led by Adrian F. Ward, PhD, assistant professor, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas, Austin, conducted 2 studies in which close to 800 undergraduate students engaged in a cognitive task with their smartphones placed nearby and in sight, nearby and out of sight, or in a separate room.
The researchers found that the mere presence of a smartphone adversely affected available cognitive capacity, even when participants were successful at sustaining attention, were not using their phone, and did not report thinking about the phone. These cognitive effects were strongest in those who reported greater dependence on their smartphone.
“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Dr Ward in a press release. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”