Study says smartphones are distracting us even without using them

Imagine this situation: you're working on a super important paper for work, while your phone is in your pocket. The phone suddenly rang, alerting you of a new text message. While you want to check who texted, you're just really busy trying to meet the deadline for your work. With this in consideration, you now wonder who the message is from, what it could possibly say, and what you could possibly reply with.

In line with this, according to a recent study by Florida State University, mobile notifications have a tendency to destroy our brain's focus on things, even when we're not actually using our smartphones. Wondering about who that new notification was from reportedly takes up attention, memory, and most importantly, brain bandwidth.

According to the study:

While message notifications themselves may be very brief, message-related thoughts prompted by these notifications likely persist much longer.

The report further stated that notifications we receive on phones disrupt performance on an attention-demanding task.

To help arrive with this conclusion, researchers Cary Stothart, Ainsley Mitchum, and Courtney Yehnert ran a sustained attention test. Taking down all the phone numbers of the volunteers, the researchers also did not tell them exactly what they were researching about, or even warning them not to check their phones. The researchers then randomly called and texted a subset of the volunteers, while they were working on a task.

The findings showed that people who were contacted via text or call displayed a significant drop in productivity while working. The report said that the volunteers were about three times more likely to commit mistakes, and would presumably respond immediately, displaying distraction from what the person is working on. Calls were reportedly more disturbing to the volunteers than text messages.

While it's not very easy for some people not to check their phones, as emergencies might come anytime, if we want to stay focused and increase work productivity, ignoring smartphone notifications for a while just might help.

Source: Florida State University via Quartz | Image via Shutterstock

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