Smartphones make you dumb

Remember the days before smartphones?

You could eat a meal in peace, catch up with a friend, uninterrupted, and go on vacation without being bombarded by work emails.

Those were the good old days…

Of course, there are benefits to cell phones. Life immediately becomes safer and more convenient in a million ways when you have one of these gadgets in your pocket or purse.

That said, smartphones suck up a crazy amount of your time and attention. And according to the latest study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, they also suck up your brain power…

Power down your phone; power up your brain

University of Texas at Austin researchers recently found that if you want to power up your brain, you may need to power down your phone… or, in some cases, ditch it completely.

They tested how smartphones affect cognitive capacity, and the results weren’t pretty.  In case you’re wondering, cognitive capacity refers to your brain’s ability to process and hold information. So it’s essential to many mental tasks you perform throughout the day.

But, it turns out, if you’re cell phone’s within arm’s reach your cognitive capacity takes a dive…

Researchers asked study participants to take a test that measured cognitive capacity. Some participants had their cell phones placed face down on the desk, others had their phones in a purse or pocket, and others had their cell phone in another room. Even though all of the phones were turned to silent, one group outperformed the rest when it came to cognitive capacity. Can you guess who?

The participants who had their cell phones in another room, that’s who. They had the best cognitive capacity, followed by the group with their cell phones in their purses or pockets. People with their smartphones placed face down on the desk fell dead last. So basically, the less aware of your cell phone you are, the better it bodes for your brain power.

“We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” said Adrian Ward, coauthor of the study. “Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process — the process of requiring yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”

Stop the cycle of smartphone brain drain

So what’s the message here? Well, when you want your brain operating at full capacity, put your phone somewhere out of sight… the further the better.

And you may want to do that on other occasions too… like when you’re eating dinner with your family, watching a movie with your spouse, going for a walk with your dog or visiting with friends.

You’ll be surprised how much it improves your quality of life to step away from your smartphone more often. Because, as it turns out, being too dependent on your phone not only drains your battery and your time, it drains your brain.

Related: Cell phones signal rising blood sugar!

  1. The mere presence of your smartphone reduces brain power, study shows.— Science Daily. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  2. Adrian F. Ward, et al. “Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity.” — Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2017; 2 (2): 140.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and