Do smartphones make us lazy?
Having the world at our fingertips diminishes the role of our brains in daily life, according to researchers in Canada.
"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," says lead author Nathaniel Barr, a postdoctoral researcher at Waterloo.
Highly intelligent people are known to approach problem solving in a manner that's analytical rather than intuitive, yet smartphones allow them to second-guess themselves, say the researchers.
The problem leaves no one behind, for intuitive thinkers who rely on their gut instinct simply turn to their devices rather than their brainpower.
In three experiments that involved a total of 660 participants, the research team analyzed users' smartphone habits in relation to their cognitive style and verbal and quantitative skills.
The same participants performed better on the same tests and demonstrated greater willingness to think analytically when they were separated from their smartphones, according to the study.
"Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence," says co-author Gordon Pennycook, a PhD candidate in Psychology at the University of Waterloo. "Whether smartphones actually decrease intelligence is still an open question that requires future research."
The study, which was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, bears grim implications on the cognition of an aging population.
"Our reliance on smartphones and other devices will likely only continue to rise," says Barr. "It's important to understand how smartphones affect and relate to 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."
To recall what life was like in the pre-smartphone era, try leaving the house without it every once in a while -- it might do more good than harm.