A lot of people joke about how having a smartphone is making us all less intelligent. And new research provides evidence that this is true.

In a recent study of over 520 students, an experiment by Ward et al was conducted to see what impact having our smartphones near us would have on our ability to complete complex tasks.

The theory is that people are so often distracted by their phones that simply having them nearby would limit the mental resources available for more demanding tasks.

To test this, the students were asked to complete two experiments in a room, one to test Working Memory Capacity and one to test Fluid Intelligence.

They were also randomly assigned to one of three groups.

  • One group was told to leave their phones in their bags, which would all be left in another room.
  • Another was asked to keep their phones with them, either in their pocket or in their bag, but out of sight.
  • Finally, a group was asked to have their phone on the desk with them while they were doing the tests, but not use it.

The results from the experiment are pretty clear, and statistically significant. The highest performance on both tests were those students who left their phone in another room. The absolute worst performance was those who could see their phone on the desk next to them.

Having a smartphone near you actually makes you more stupid

Figure 1 from Ward, Adrian F., et al. “Brain drain: The mere presence of one’s own smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity.” Journal of the Association for Consumer Research 2.2 (2017): 140-154.

This clearly shows that the mere presence of our phones takes away mental resources which we could use to do more productive things.

It is probably also a reason why people are so prone to distraction, rather than letting their mind wander to come up with new ideas.

We have spoken previously about how being constantly distracted is preventing us getting into a flow state, where we can do our most innovative and creative work.

So if you want to be really productive from now on, maybe leave your phones in another room, and set specific times of the day to check it.

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Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time
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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.