Smartphones make some people “cognitively lazy,” according to a new study from the University of Waterloo. Intuitive thinkers are lost in the convenience of their phones, to the point that they use significantly less brainpower to complete tasks assigned to them. This begs the question: are smartphones too convenient for their own good?
The study, entitled “The Brain in your Pocket: Evidence that Smartphones are used to Supplant Thinking,” involved 660 participants who were grouped together based on their analytical skills. The participants were assessed based on how often they use their smartphones, and researchers found some of them used their phones to search for basic information they already knew. Why? It all comes down to convenience.
Participants in the study who showed greater cognitive skills were less likely to use their phone’s search engine functions when solving problems.
“Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence,” said the study’s co-author, Gordon Pennycook, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo. “Whether smartphones actually decrease intelligence is still an open question that requires future research.”
Researchers also noticed a correlation between social media use and lowered cognitive skills. Those who were more active on social media were more reliant on their phones and, thus, lazier when asked to do a simple task.
As smartphone use continues to grow throughout the world, one has to wonder what our cognitive skills will look like in another decade.
“It’s important to understand how smartphones affect and relate to human psychology before these technologies are so fully ingrained that it’s hard to recall what life was like without them. We may already be at that point,” said Nathan Barr, another author on the study.