Research by Professor Adrian Ward of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas is showing that the mere presence of a smartphone is enough to reduce your cognitive capacity. So if like me you need all the brainpower that you’ve got, this is not good news!

And it seems that it doesn’t matter whether the smartphone is switched on or off; or face-up or face-down; or in your bag or pocket and out of sight, this research shows that cognitive capacity is reduced.

One slightly worrying aspect of the research findings was that the presence of a smartphone also reduces the capacity for learning and also the quality of people’s decision-making when they are more likely to take ‘an easy option’ decision.

So is this all doom and gloom or if we put away our smartphones, is there anything we can learn?

Well, The researchers found that:

  1. Participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.
  2. Participants who were the most dependent on their smartphones performed worse compared with their less-dependent peers, but only when they kept their smartphones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.
  3. The mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand.
  4. “We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Ward said. “Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process – the process of requiring yourself to not think about something – uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”

So the message from this research is that the presence of a smartphone can reduce your ability to think.  And leaving your smartphone in another room – switched off so that you don’t get anxious if it rings – makes you smarter.

Team meetings may be a great starting place for a ‘hang-up-your-smartphone’ policy before entering the meeting. Smart Meetings at last …………….?

The full research is available on the University of Texas website at this link.  Don’t forget to ‘hang-up-your-smartphone’ before going on the website 🙂