10 March 2015

Could smartphones lower intelligence?

Smartphone devices may promote lazy thinking and less brain use, according to a new study.


Being too reliant on a smartphone could make lazy thinkers even less inclined to use their brain, a new study suggests.

"They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it," study co-lead author Gordon Pennycook, a doctoral candidate in the psychology department at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said in a university news release.

"Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence," Pennycook said. "Whether smartphones actually decrease intelligence is still an open question that requires future research."

The researchers assessed the thinking styles and smartphone use of 660 people to compare analytical and intuitive thinkers. Intuitive thinkers tend to use gut feelings and instinct when making decisions, while analytical thinkers give much more thought to solving problems.

The researchers found that that intuitive thinkers, but not analytical thinkers, frequently used their smartphone's search engine rather than their own brains.

Read: Cell phones used to measure happiness

This means that smartphones enable intuitive thinkers to be even lazier thinkers than normal, according to the investigators.

The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.

Smartphones an extended mind

"Decades of research has revealed that humans are eager to avoid expending effort when problem-solving and it seems likely that people will increasingly use their smartphones as an extended mind," co-lead author and postdoctoral researcher Nathaniel Barr said in the news release.

Being too lazy to use your mind to problem-solve could have serious consequences for your brain as you age, the researchers suggested.

Read: How your brain ages

"Our reliance on smartphones and other devices will likely only continue to rise," Barr said.

He stressed it's crucial to study how "smartphones affect 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."

Read more:

Smart phones change real world privacy settings
Smart phones to help smokers quit
TB smartphone app

Image: Student with smartphone from Shutterstock

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