UW research says smartphone usage affects brain agility

According to a recent study done at the University of Waterloo, the use of smartphones is related to the agility of our brains.</p>

The study was done on 660 people at UW and Mechanical Turk, an online workforce, analyzing each person’s smartphone usage habits and their styles of thinking. The results showed a difference between those with heavy smartphone usage and those with less or no smartphone usage. 

Three experiments were conducted: one on UW students and two on workers from Mechanical Turk. The participants were asked to answer questions about their smartphone habits and the usage of its search engine. The researchers found a correlation between intuitive thinkers and heavier smartphone reliance when looking for information, compared to analytical thinkers who are more likely to figure things out by themselves. 

The experiments done consisted of giving each participant a number of tests on vocabulary and numeracy skills, and the results showed that intuitive thinkers answered  immediately without thinking the question through, often answering incorrectly, while analytical thinkers were able to answer correctly more often. Those who rated as intuitive thinkers were also rated as heavy users of the search engine on their phone. 

Although the study was not focused on a particular age group, little difference was found between those with less smartphone usage and those with no smartphone usage in the cognitive tests study, but a greater link between heavy smartphone usage and lower test scores was found.

Gordon Pennycook, the study’s co-author and a PhD candidate in the psychology department at UW told the Daily Mail, “Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence.” Whether smartphone usage actually does lower intelligence, he said to CTV News “is still an open question that requires future research.” 

Pennycook plans on continuing his research into this subject with further study.

“We’d like to look at the association between smartphones and creativity, but we aren’t currently running that study,” Pennycook said in an interview with Imprint. “I hope that it makes people think about the way that they think. I’d like people to try to think in a more analytical way, to question intuition at a higher frequency in society, and at least think about [how they] associate the way they think and the technology they use.”

The study also showed that the time spent using smartphones for social media purposes had no relation to the results of the study.


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