From a calendar carrying all the important dates to a source of entertainment filled with videos, music and pictures, phones now encompass so much more than just means of communication. While smartphones can make your life much easier, the benefits sadly don’t come without a cost. Dr Michael Mosley has shared that just the sight of your phone can negatively impact your brain power.
Speaking on his podcast Just One Thing, the doctor said: “I have a confession to make. I spent way too much time on my phone.”
Dr Mosley isn’t the only one guilty of using the smart device excessively, as adults in the UK spend almost three hours on average using their phones daily.
While the small device can help you get organised or stay up to date with news around the world, there are benefits in putting it down.
The podcast host explained that taking a break from your phone could even “boost” your brain power.
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The reason why something as simple and cost-effective as hiding a phone from yourself could complement your brain comes down to how the devices affect this most complex part of the human body.
Dr Mosley invited Professor Adrian Ward, from the University of Texas at Austin, to help solve the puzzle of phones and cognitive capacity.
The professor and his team conducted research on undergraduates and their smartphones.
He said: “We just had them put their own phones in one of three locations – either on the desk in front of them, in their pocket or bag wherever it was when they came in, or in a separate room.
“Then we had them do a series of cognitive tests.
“Those who had their phones on the desk in front of them, did significantly worse than those who had left their phones in a different room, even when they weren’t using their phones.”
Dr Mosley found this information “shocking”, realising that “just the sight of your phone can impact your brain power”.
Professor Ward explained that the reason behind this powerful impact is caused by human limited cognitive capacity.
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He said: “Anytime your phone is in the environment, it represents all these wonderful and rewarding things.
“It represents cat videos, and our friends, work email, our calendars – that attracts our attention.
“And so even when we’re not paying attention to our phones, when we’re actually resisting that urge to pick up our phones and to text our friends, or to go to YouTube, or to go on social media, the process of controlling our attention uses up some of those limited cognitive resources.”
While putting your phone down could be the first step, this research suggests you shouldn’t keep the device in the same room with you. And turning it off doesn’t seem to help either.
Ward added: “We found the same cognitive cost of having your phone around whether or not it was turned on.
“If it’s still there, you’re still seeing it. It’s still reminding you of all those things you could be doing on your phone or with your phone.”
Now, the professor doesn’t expect you to go “cold turkey” but the first step could be figuring out when you actually use your phone and how you can cut down.
The good news is that less time spent with the device may improve your sleep, brain power, mood and back pain, according to Dr Mosley.
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