Study: You're using brainpower to not look at your smartphone

A UT professor found that the presence of a smartphone, even if you aren't using it, can actually decrease your brain power.

It’s the world we live in - people are dependent on their smart phones.

"I’m always on my phone, everyone who knows me knows I have it in my hand literally all the time,” said Margaret Dail. "I think it’s a big distraction and that's like all I think about."

"I usually have it on me, you know, it’s convenient,” said Jason Blunck.

"You pay attention to what’s going on on your phone, versus what's going on around me,” said Gene Leverty. "I think phones kind of attract you because you get good news and bad news, so you kind of hang on to getting good news, so you're not paying attention then all of a sudden you just say well I want to check."

"If you just feel like you're not connected, or might miss something, it's kind of like FOMO - fear of missing out - on something,” said Courtney Crossley.

But UT Assistant Professor Adrian Ward worked on research that found the presence of a smartphone – even if it’s off – can diminish your brain power.

"You literally see everyone on their phone all the time, and you don't think of it as a negative impact on your brain,” said Crossley.

The study looked at about 800 college undergraduates who were split into three groups as they were each trying to take a test.

One group had their phone next to them, another had their phone in their bag, and the third group had their phone in another room.

According to the study, the ones with their phone next to them had the most trouble focusing -- even if their phone was off.

Ward told KVUE Thursday that we have a limited amount of brain power, so even if you tell yourself that you’re not going to look at your phone, that’s brain energy you’re using to resist the temptation.

"I think when you're doing something important, it’s always in your mind. If you hear something shuffling around, you're like 'oh it's my phone,' but it's not,” said Dail.

Elijah Stinger, a therapist who works with those who have digital addiction, said people are hard-wired to want to communicate.

"They look at it because they want to know, they're wanting to connect with something else, they're wanting something, and it creates a restlessness in them, and the only way to satisfy that urge is to look,” said Stinger.

Stinger also said smartphones are designed to bring people closer together, but they can have the opposite effect when you’re not able to focus on people around you.

“I think because it's on the table, I think that it is in people's minds, because I think in a lot of ways the phone going off means something is happening, or someone wants to communicate, and I think that we are hard-wired to receive communication..... and I think that because we are not able to find out what the message is, it creates some kind of emotional like pull, like 'I have to know, what are you trying to say? Is this important? Does this pertain to me? Is something happening, should I know about it?'," Stinger explained.

"In terms of studying - it can be quite a distraction. I try to keep it away from me as much as possible,” said Barbara Kalvin.

"I put it away usually when I get home, I don't really need it that much, after working hours,” said Blunck.

Ward said the best way to focus is to put your smartphone in another room.

Out of sight, out of mind.


 

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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