Is Your Phone Actually Draining Your Brain?

Shayla Love: This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Shayla Love.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re trying to get some work done, and you find yourself continually picking up your cell phone. In frustration, you might slam the phone down beside you and swear to leave it alone—theoretically allowing you to focus on what you’re doing.

Right now my phone is sitting next to me untouched. But have I really protected myself from its distractions or its ability to impact my mind? The answer is no, according to a well-known study in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research from 2017 entitled “Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity.”

Cognitive and social psychologist Adrian Ward and his colleagues proposed the “brain drain hypothesis” by showing that just having a phone next to you could impact cognition—specifically, working memory, or the mental system that helps us hold information about what we’re currently doing at a given moment.

Ward: The way we measure it is by having people remember words and solve math problems at the same time. And the idea there is that those are two very different cognitive skills,

— source | Dec 20, 2022

Nullius in verba


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