For generations, parents have been saying that too much television rots the brain. This means we also have generations of scientific investigation into the question of whether they were right. As it turns out, while more time spent in front of the tube does correlate with criminal behavior, psychological disorders, poor language skill, social deficiencies, and obesity, we’re not entirely convinced TV is to blame.
But what about your smart phone? Does that rot your brain?
Smart phones haven’t been around for as long, but people are already accusing them of making us dumb.
There have been many theories about exactly what phones are doing to our brains. Do they emit cell radiation strong enough to pop popcorn? Do wifi and blue tooth waves interfere with brain activity? Have our thinking muscles atrophied due to an over-dependence on Siri? Are we all getting hypnotized by Candy Crush?
There’s no question that cell phone use is a major part of our modern lives:
- 91% of people report that they NEVER leave home without their phone.
- We check our phones an average of 85 times a day (including immediately after waking up, just before going to bed, in the middle of the night, during meals, while spending time with family, while in the shower, and even during sex.)
- 46% of people say they couldn’t live without a smart phone.
And there is legitimate concern that our brains are being affected by phones in ways that television never could. Empathy is down, narcissism is up, attention-deficit disorders have skyrocketed, depression, addiction, prescriptions of psychiatric medication, and many more all correlate with the rise of smart phone technology, social media, and the like,
A new study suggests that it might have something to do with how close your phone is to you.
The study found that having your smartphone on your desk reduces your working memory capacity by 10% and fluid intelligence by 5%. Even if you’re not using it!
Having it in your pocket is a better option, but it’s best to take it out of the room entirely, according to the study.
A 2014 study found that having a phone in sight (even if it is face-down and turned off) reduces the quality of in-person communications.
This isn’t caused by any kind of radiation beamed at you from satellites, however. Instead, it has to do with how often you think about the phone.
If your phone is on your desk, you can see it. Every time you see it, you’re reminded of it. Every time you’re reminded of it, you’re tempted to check it. Every time you’re tempted, it takes mental energy to resist that temptation. If it buzzes, forget about it.
It’s the mere presence of the phone; the idea of it that causes the effect.
So, while our brains aren’t physically rotting out of our skulls, these smart phones aren’t exactly making us smarter either.