Out of sight, out of mind. The adage might hold true when it comes to your smartphone. A recent study suggests that when your phone is within reach or sight, it is hard to concentrate on the task at hand.
A team from the University of Texas at Austin gauged cognitive skills among a group of 800 smartphone users. All participants completed a computer test that required full concentration while their phones were on silent mode. They were randomly selected for one of three scenarios — placing their phones in another room; placing their phones in a pocket, bag or purse; or placing the phone on the desk facedown.
The group that was asked to store their phones in a separate room performed the best — significantly better than those with their phone on the desk and slightly better than those with phones in a pocket or a bag. The researchers believe that, subconsciously, a part of the participants’ brains was “actively working not to pick up or use the phone.”
In a second experiment, the researchers asked the same groups of participants about their dependency on their smartphones to get through a typical day. Some were asked to put their phones on silent mode, while others were told to turn their phones off.
Those who said they were least attached to their phones performed the best, whether their phones were nearby on the desk, in a purse or bag or in another room.
The researchers said the findings suggest participants’ ability to stay on task decreases when their smartphone is visible or in easy reach — even when there are no text notices or phone calls coming in.
So, if you need to concentrate on the job at hand, your first step is clear: Stow the phone.