Distractions Created by Smartphones When Not in Use

Smartphones have completely changed the
way we are able to live our lives, in many ways for the better. Their use,
however, can also create hazardous situations. Smartphones are a huge
distraction from simply walking down the street and texting to taking the eyes
of a driver off the road for hundreds of feet of travel at a time. While it is
a well-known fact that actively using a smartphone (or a regular cellphone)
distracts you from other tasks at hand, research is coming out that
shows there are negative effects from just having your smartphone in the
area near you.

Today’s modern world is arguably busier
and more than distracting than ever before. Add smartphones into the mix and
you are guaranteed to lack focus on things occurring around you. It is obvious
that using these devices while completing other tasks is distracting, but
the studies that show that they can negatively affect cognitive abilities
even when not in use may surprise you.

An article published by the Journal of the Association for
Consumer Research reported study findings that indicated the mere presence of an
individual’s own smartphone affected test scores that targeted attention and
problem solving. More specifically, the two measures of cognitive capacity
focused on in the study were “available working memory capacity” and
“functional fluid intelligence”. The researchers asked participants to
place their smartphone in one of three places. The three places were (1) in
sight on the desk they were working at, (2) in their pocket/ bag, or (3) in
another room completely.

Even though the smartphones did not
receive any notifications or alerts during the testing process it was shown
that the individuals who had their phones on their desk where they could see
them did worse on the test than those individuals who had it in their pocket or
bag. Furthermore, the individuals who had the phone in their pocket or bag
performed worse than those individuals who had their phone in another room.

The researchers also asked participants
after the testing process how much they were thinking about their smartphone
during the test. The most common response was “not at all” even though the test
scores clearly showed a relationship between how close the phone was to the
participants and the score received on the test. The researchers came to the
conclusion that an individual does not have to be actively thinking about their
smartphone for it to affect cognitive capacity when it is around them.

It can be frightening to think of the
negative effects technology can have on our brains. While the majority of
individuals recognize the dangers of using a cellphone while completing tasks,
many do not realize the impact of just having a smartphone in our presence can
have on our ability to focus and problem solve. When completing tasks that
require your full focus, consider putting your cellphone in a different area
where it will not serve as a distraction for you