Cellphones make us dumber (even when they're turned off.)

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Cellphones make us dumber

Ever feel like your work life and your family life compete with each other?

Want a tip that will help you earn points with your family and your company at the same time?

Here it is: Stop randomly checking your phone. And when you can, leave it in a different room.

A study published in the Journal for the Association for Consumer Research (https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/691462) suggests that the mere presence of your phone in the same room consumes some of your attention – even when it’s turned off. Having it on the desk – even face down – was more distracting than having it in a bag or pocket. Moving it to a different room was the biggest help from that distraction.

And this is also interesting. Those who are most dependent on their cellphones in general are the most distracted.

By leaving your cellphone in a different room, you’ll perform better and pay more attention to the people in the room with you. That’s an obvious win.

But if the nature of your job demands that the phone stays with you, there’s still a useful takeaway here. The phone is a distraction to cognitive and relational work because the device is frequently relevant but currently irrelevant to that kind of work. The more you randomly check your phone without a notification that it needs your attention, the more you reinforce your perception of its general relevance, making it more of a distraction.

So put your phone in a different room when you can. And if you can’t, at least commit to not pull it out randomly. You’ll be better off at home and at work.

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