The mere presence of a mobile phone is a distraction to your brain – and the brains of others! If you want to get things done, put it away!
The very presence of a mobile phone is a distraction – not only to your brain, but also to the person you’re supposed to be talking to. Phones are a distraction, even if they’re not ringing or pinging with text messages.
Scientists led by Associate Professor Jun-ichiro Kawahara at Hokkaido University in Japan discovered that the mere presence of a mobile phone is distracting, even if it’s not turned on, and even if it’s not your own.
In Professor Kawahara’s experiment, 40 undergraduate volunteers were split into two groups and asked to carry out electronic tests designed to gauge their attention spans.
One group was asked to do the tests with an Apple iPhone placed next to their computer monitor, while the others did the tests with an old-fashioned paper notebook placed next to the monitor. The test was relatively simple and involved participants searching for a particular character amid a jumble of other characters on the monitor screen. The researchers simply measured how long it took to find the target character.
The Hokkaido University findings proved that it’s harder to concentrate when a mobile is present, even if it’s turned off. Participants with the mobile phone present took longer to find the character and the effect was markedly greater with people who were less regular users of mobile phones. This suggests that people are easily distracted by the presence of mobiles and that they may be even be drawn to the presence of a mobile phone.
The evidence that mobiles are distracting has been piling up in recent years. Other studies have shown that using phones whilst driving not only impairs driving performance but also downright dangerous, and for obvious reasons!
Another finding is that the unpredictability of listening to only one half of a phone conversation also distracts people, and other studies have found that even just placing a mobile phone in view exerts a negative impact on the quality of face-to-face communication.
Even just holding a mobile phone makes you less likely to get a fair hearing from others. One study found that holding a phone in your hand when you are talking has been found to reduce the amount of empathy shown to you by the person you’re talking to.
We are at a stage where devices and gadgets are not only an integral part of our lives, but are now beginning to rule our lives. Smartphones are affecting social behaviour in many more ways than we at present realise. The irony is that they are certainly the cause of communication breakdown between parents and their offspring. There is no solution in sight other than a modicum of self-control. Maybe it’s time we started educating our children that a smart phone is a luxury and not a necessity, something to be used sparingly, like caviar not jam.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2017. All rights reserved.