What impact do smartphones have on our intelligence? Scientists are already exploring this question—and their findings are both intriguing and disturbing. Research shows that as the brain becomes more reliant on technology, intelligence is diminished accordingly.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Adrian Ward, a cognitive psychologist and marketing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has been studying how smartphones and the Internet affect our thoughts and judgments for ten years. Ward suspects that we are so obsessed with our phones that their mere presence may be enough to impair our intellectual performance. Two years ago, Ward and several colleagues launched an elaborate experiment to test his hypothesis.
The researchers recruited 520 college students at the University of California, San Diego, and gave them two standard tests of mental acuity. The first test assesses “available cognitive ability,” which measures a person’s ability to fully focus one’s mind on a specific task. The second test assesses “fluid intelligence,” which involves interpreting and solving unfamiliar problems. ability, the only variable in the test is the location of the subject’s smartphone. The researchers asked some students to place their phones on the table in front of them; others put their phones in pockets or handbags; and still others were asked to leave their phones in another room.
The test results were shocking. In both tests, subjects who kept their phones within sight scored the lowest, while those who kept their phones in another room got the highest scores, and those who kept their phones in their pockets or handbags scored just right. In the middle. The closer you are to your phone, the slower your brain becomes.
In subsequent interviews, nearly all participants reported that their phones did not distract them—they insisted that they had not thought about their phones at all during the test. Mobile phones interfere with their concentration and thinking, but they don’t even realize it.
A second experiment conducted by the researchers later came to a similar conclusion. They also found that students who were more dependent on mobile phones in daily life had greater cognitive impairment.
An article published by Ward and his colleagues stated that the “integration of smartphones into daily life” appears to cause “brain drain” and weaken people’s key mental skills such as “learning, logical reasoning, abstract thinking, and problem solving. and creativity”. Researchers particularly emphasize that most people nowadays habitually keep their mobile phones next to them to ensure that they are within their sight. This approach will only amplify the above-mentioned intellectual damage.