Just Being in the Same Room as a Smartphone Can Make You Dumber

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Courtesy of Shutterstock

Just being in the same room as a smartphone makes it harder for your brain to perform and complete tasks, according to new research from the University of Texas at Austin.

UT Assistant Professor Adrian Ward led the study, which experimented with around 800 smartphone users. During one of the experiments, people could choose to put their phones on a desk next to them, in their pocket or bag, or in another room. They would then take a series of tests on the computer. The researchers found that people with their phones in another room outperformed those with their phones nearby on the desk or in their pockets and bags. Ward said this is because the participants' brains were actively trying to not pay attention to their smartphones.

"That process — the process of requiring yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources," Ward said in a UT press release. "It’s a brain drain.”

It doesn't matter whether a person's phone is kept on or turned off, lying face up or face down on the desk. Just having it within eye and hand's reach will reduce a person's ability to hold and process information.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” Ward said. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”

The full study can be found here.