Your Cellphone Is Distracting You Even When You’re Not Using It

A new study suggests that putting your cellphone away (and out of your line of sight) is the only way to ensure that it isn’t distracting you.

Your Cellphone Is Distracting You Even When You’re Not Using It Photo (cc) by Yutaka Tsutano

If you have a cellphone and it’s in your line of sight right now, it’s probably distracting you.

That’s right. Even if you’re not actively using your cellphone, it’s still most likely keeping you sidetracked so you can’t completely focus on complicated tasks.

That’s according to a new study by the University of Southern Maine, recently published in the journal Social Psychology. The study was aptly titled, “The Mere Presence of a Cellphone May Be Distracting.”

Time described how the study worked:

Participants were asked to complete different motor tasks with the study leader’s cellphone visible. In the second, participants completed motor tasks with their own cellphones visible. Performance on complex tasks suffered in both conditions when compared to control groups with no visible cellphone.

Study author Bill Thornton told Time that a cellphone is a constant reminder of the “broader social community.”

“With the presence of the phone, you’re wondering what those people are doing,” says Thornton, a University of Southern Maine professor. “Even if it’s just mental, your focus is not on the task at hand, whether it be trying to write an article, get this spreadsheet set up, or just socializing; your mind is elsewhere.”

This study would support an argument for keeping cellphones put away at work or at school.

“This constant connectivity throughout the day provides for a continual source of interruptions and distractions and potentially diminishes our ability to maintain attention and to concentrate and think deeply about things,” the study said.

Although cellphones have been praised for helping people keep in touch, a 2012 study found that they can also provide an unnecessary distraction from other types of social engagement.

“Mobile communication devices such as phones may, by their mere presence, paradoxically hold the potential to facilitate as well as to disrupt human bonding and intimacy,” concluded that study, which was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

So, when you’re trying to concentrate on a complex task or have a conversation with someone, it’s best to put your cellphone away and out of sight. This may be easier said than done for some cellphone users.

Do you agree with the findings of the study? Do you think your cellphone is a distraction? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Krystal Steinmetz
Krystal Steinmetz
A former television and radio reporter, I stay at home with my two young children, run a small craft business and freelance for Money Talks News. I have a BA in journalism ... More


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