How many of you remember the birthdays of friends you met after the creation of smartphones (and Facebook) or even when your next dentist appointment is without checking your devices?
Chances are, you already know that owning a smartphone and other technologies that help us remember things affects our ability to recall information that we could have easily remembered before.
But a new study shows that just having your phones near you can have a negative impact on learning and memory.
A problem among young adults especially
According to a small-scale study by Associate Professor Dr Yong Min Hooi of the Department of Psychology and her undergraduate student Clarissa Tanil of the BSc (Hons) in Psychology from the School of Science and Technology at Sunway University, undergraduates tend to look at their phones an average of 86 times a day
This is much higher than an average of 47 times for other age groups.
The study that involved 119 undergraduate students titled “ Mobile Phones: The Effect of its Presence on Learning and Memory” has been published
in PLOS ONE
, a peer-reviewed journal.
Dr Yong said the aim of the research was to examine the effect of smartphone presence on learning and memory among undergraduates.
Those involved in the research were asked to go through memory task and the Smartphone Addiction Scale (SAS).
You don't even have to be using the phone to feel the negative impact
Dr Yong and Clarissa's research has found that smartphone usage is indeed high among university students and that the presence of smartphones (placed next to the individual face-down) is enough to disrupt their performance in a learning and memory task.
“Our results showed that those without smartphones had higher recall accuracy compared to those with smartphones. Furthermore, there was a significant negative relationship between phone conscious thought i.e. 'how often did you think about your phone', and memory recall but not for SAS and memory recall.
“Phone conscious thought significantly predicted memory accuracy. We found that the presence of a smartphone and high phone conscious thought affects one’s memory learning and recall, indicating the negative effect of a smartphone proximity to our learning and memory,” she added.
Dr Yong said smartphone usage is high among students and may have wider negative consequences than originally thought.
"Students need to learn to ‘wean’ off their phones and engage in other activities such as reading a book or pursue outdoor activities. Unlike the smartphone, a physical book’s presence does not affect our cognitive capacity,” Dr Yong concluded.
The research project was also a part of Clarissa’s final year project and was chosen based on her personal experience.
She found that she had to keep her phone in her drawer so that she was not distracted while studying.
Having submitted her dissertation and after completing her BSc (Hons) in Psychology, she worked briefly as a Research Assistant with Dr Yong in her laboratory where she continued working on the project.
“She experienced some challenges in recruiting participants for the research. I think many chose not to participate because they didn’t want to part from their phones. I also recall that she found the results rather surprising because she did not think that many undergrads are facing similar difficulties,” said Dr Yong.
The study was conducted with the use of the cognitive psychology software available at the Psychology lab on Sunway campus.
So, there you have it, guys! If you want to excel at your work or at your studies, put down your phones, OK?