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Are Our Smartphones Actually Making Us Dumb?

A new study finds that our devices affect our focus, even when we aren't using them.
Are Our Smartphones Actually Making Us Dumb?
Image credit: Shutterstock

Quick poll: If you’re sitting at your desk doing work right now, is your phone sitting in your eyeline, just waiting for you to take a break and scroll through Facebook or Twitter? Even if you manage not to check it, you’re still thinking about it, right?

You’re not alone. So much so that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin recently conducted a study to figure out just how much your phone -- even its presence, not you actually using it -- affects your brain’s capacity to focus on the task at hand.

In the experiment, the researchers split the participants into three groups. One had their phones face down on their desks, the second kept their phones in their pockets or bags and the third had them in another room.

Related: Why Successful People Never Bring Smartphones Into Meetings

The researchers ran the participants through a series of cognitive tests on a computer that required their full attention, such as solving math problems or remembering sequences and patterns. Then they asked them a series of questions about how their phones affected their performance.

Ultimately, the researchers found that the people who had their phones furthest from them actually scored higher on the test than the people whose phones were close by -- but all of the groups actually thought about their phones the same amount.

So next time you need to meet a deadline, consider leaving your phone behind.

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