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Is our smartphone dumbing us down?

Our smartphones are part of our everyday toolkit. Wherever we are, wherever we go, we take our smartphones too. With around 1.75 billion smartphones now being used on the planet we are more connected, more informed and more rapidly updated than at any previous time in our history.

We are now so dependent on our mobile gadget, we experience withdrawal symptoms if we no longer have access to our smartphones. People have reported suffering from phantom vibration syndrome (yes, that is a real medical condition), anxiety and an inability to concentrate if separated from their phones.

But are they also dumbing us down?

When was the last time you trusted your own sense of navigation to get you to your destination?Or when was the last time you relied on your own brain to work out the answer to a simple maths question, such as dividing a café bill between friends?

Our smart phones are quick and easy to use. Why trouble your brain when your phone provides you the answer to everything you need?

One reason to not rely so heavily on our phone is the latest research from Canada that suggests that because our brain likes to take the easy option when given the choice, we are reducing our ability to problem solve.

There’s a difference too between different types of thinkers. Intuitive thinkers tend to be lazier than analytical thinkers when it comes to selecting to using brain power.

The implication is that our smartphone use is already having a significant effect on our ability to think. The researchers suggest there is an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence. Another concern is that as we age, it is essential for good brain health that we continue to challenge our brain and make it work for us. An idle brain is a rapidly rusting brain.

It looks as if we have a choice to make.

In our future, if we want to differentiate ourselves from the crowd by having a higher level of mental flexibility, innovative thinking and ability to solve problems, we may need to learn to unplug for a while.

Taking a technology break reduces the cognitive load on the brain. Switching off has been shown to lower blood pressure, lessen symptoms of anxiety and increase our feeling of wellbeing.

High performance thinking starts with a balanced approach to how we integrate with our technology.

Our future brain starts here.

How do you think you would fare without a mobile phone? Would you? Could you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Ref: Nathaniel Barr, Gordon Pennycook, Jennifer A. Stolz, Jonathan A. Fugelsang. The brain in    your pocket: Evidence that Smartphones are used to supplant thinking. Computers in Human Behavior, 2015; 48: 473 DOI:10.1016/j.chb.2015.02.029

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