Phone_distraction_web

Being notified to distraction

Mobile phones are indispensable to those of us who have them these days. Where would you be without your digital friend to catch up on Instagram and Facebook, receive SMS messages about your friend’s latest dining experience, aim for a high score on your latest fave game, or even take or make a phone call? As indispensable as they have become however, these phones do have downsides and a new study has found that one of those downsides is that they drive you distraction, even if you don’t answer them.

The new study involved people being asked to undertake an attention-demanding computer task. In the first part subjects simply concentrated on doing the task. In the second part there were three groups; one group received no notification on their phone, another group received a notification of an SMS message, while the third group received a notification of a voice call. In reality the voice calls and SMS messages came from the researchers but the subjects did not know that.

When performance on the task was examined it emerged that those who received notifications committed at least three times as many errors as those who received no notifications. Additionally, voice call notifications were related to even worse performance than SMS notifications.

When the researchers compared their data to other research on how actually receiving a call or SMS (as opposed to just hearing a notification) affects performance there was similar results. So receiving a notification but not responding is as distracting to your focus as actually responding to a text message or answering a call.

The implications of this are far-reaching. Not only should you turn down the volume on your phone when driving but you probably shouldn’t have it near you at work either. It seems harsh but you might just have to wait a few hours to find out that your friend just had the fifth best sushi they have ever had.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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