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Is Your Mobile Phone Replacing Your Brainpower?

Joined
Jul 14, 2019
There have been studies conducted that suggest that even the presence of a mobile device on or around your person can reduct your ability to perform tasks. I'll link one below that I was able to find an online article about, however this particular study seemed to measure concentration whilst labeling it as "cognitive function".

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170623133039.htm

What has your experience been? As an example, before smartphones were commonplace and devices such as GPS navigation were around, if you wanted to get somewhere you had to remember the address, plot out a course either mentally or on a map, and remember your route for the duration of the journey. However, having been born into an era when smartphones have dominated my young adulthood, I find it difficult to so much as remember an address, never mind navigate there on my own.

Here's another quick article on how taking a picture of an event makes you remember less about it:
https://www.diyphotography.net/taking-a-photo-of-something-makes-you-forget-it-more-easily-study-finds/

I have also experienced this somewhat myself. If I go out somewhere memorable, and later recall the day in order to reminisce or tell others, I find myself remembering the day in photos if I have taken any. If I spotted an interesting mountain and only visually inspected it, I can recall it as an object much more vividly in my head than if I'd taken a photo. At which point, the memory in my head is merely of the picture I had taken rather than of the mountain itself.

Another interesting but likely unrelated point is that very few people seem to recall ever having a dream that featured them using their smartphone. Regular phones, yes, but seemingly not smartphones. Could it be that the brain is reasoning "Hey, that thing remembers things for me so I don't need too!" or perhaps even views it as a sort of extension of itself?
 

TheGreatCthulhu

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Having been born before smartphones, I can confirm that this is true for some people. These days, the smartphone makes things convenient, especially when I'm always on the go.

With the rise of devices like these, we may have had to allocate tasks that a computer does far better than our highly evolved ape brains, such as calculations, but the upside is that you have all of the collective knowledge of mankind right at your fingertips.

This makes researching a topic far more efficient and convenient, but you have to be more diligent about verifying a source.

As the original paper outlines:

The proliferation of smartphones represents a profound shift in the relationship between consumers and technology. Across human history, the vast majority of innovations have occupied a defined space in consumers’ lives; they have been constrained by the functions they perform and the locations they inhabit. Smartphones transcend these limitations. They are consumers’ constant companions, offering unprecedented connection to information, entertainment, and each other. They play an integral role in the lives of billions of consumers worldwide and, as a result, have vast potential to influence consumer welfare—both for better and for worse.

Although we have primarily focused on the cognitive costs associated with the presence of smartphones, our research is equally relevant to the potential implications of their absence. Discussions of “disconnection” in popular culture reflect increasing consumer interest in intentionally reducing—or at least controlling—the extent to which they interact with their devices (e.g., Perlow 2012; Harmon and Mazmanian 2013). Some consumers are replacing their smartphones with feature phones (i.e., phones lacking the advanced functionality of smartphones; Thomas 2016), others are supplementing their smartphones with stripped-down devices that offer “a short break from connectedness” (http://www.thelightphone.com/), and still others are turning to apps that track, filter, and limit smartphone usage (e.g., https://inthemoment.io/). Our research suggests that these measures may be doubly beneficial for the digitally weary; by redefining the relevance of their devices, these consumers may both reduce digital distraction and increase available cognitive capacity. More broadly, our research contributes to the growing discussion among consumers and marketers alike about the influence of technology on consumers—and consumers on technology—in an increasingly connected world.
So really, the paper was more about discussing smartphone dependence, that is, people who are always on the thing. And that is totally up to the person using the device.

I'm not a fan of relying on the smartphone to do your thinking for you. Critical thinking and skepticism are far more healthy for you, and using a device to think for you really hinders the ability to think critically, at least for some people.

This is why I believe in using the smartphone wisely. That is, it is supplemental. If you're researching a topic, and aren't near a computer, whip out the phone and do some research.

I can't tell you how many times I was debating with someone that's anti-science, and them citing scientific papers without reading them. It's painfully evident.

Anyhow, rant done. Interesting research. :)
 

Spiritual Mask Salesman

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It comes down to the person, if they are using a smartphone to conduct their decisions and thoughts, than that's bad. Everyone should always try to think for themselves, and never rely on someone or something to think for them (because if you do, you are sacrificing your liberty).

I feel like smartphones have great potential for those who have the ingenuity to unlock it, but it's convenience to do some tasks for you comes with a risk for sure. I think younger generations are threatened more with technological reliance than older generations are, though.
 

TheGreatCthulhu

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It comes down to the person, if they are using a smartphone to conduct their decisions and thoughts, than that's bad. Everyone should always try to think for themselves, and never rely on someone or something to think for them (because if you do, you are sacrificing your liberty).

I feel like smartphones have great potential for those who have the ingenuity to unlock it, but it's convenience to do some tasks for you comes with a risk for sure. I think younger generations are threatened more with technological reliance than older generations are, though.
Completely agreed.
 
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
I think the studies undertaken thus far have been less to prove that we are letting these devices think for us, and more that they function for us.

So yes, there will be some that use their phones as cheap research tools to disingenuously 'prove' ill advised points they are making. However that is not an issue exclusive to smartphones, it's merely made more convenient by this. The crux of these pieces of research is more to explore the idea that they will act as memory banks so our brains don't need too. They will do mathematical problems for us so we don't need to. They store numbers of friends, pictures of holidays, address of local businesses, all so our brain doesn't need too.

The effect of this is so far unproved, yet seems to point in the direction that our brains operate in a fundamentally different way precisely because they don't need to anymore when we actively use our smartphones.
 

Spiritual Mask Salesman

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I think the studies undertaken thus far have been less to prove that we are letting these devices think for us, and more that they function for us.

So yes, there will be some that use their phones as cheap research tools to disingenuously 'prove' ill advised points they are making. However that is not an issue exclusive to smartphones, it's merely made more convenient by this. The crux of these pieces of research is more to explore the idea that they will act as memory banks so our brains don't need too. They will do mathematical problems for us so we don't need to. They store numbers of friends, pictures of holidays, address of local businesses, all so our brain doesn't need too.

The effect of this is so far unproved, yet seems to point in the direction that our brains operate in a fundamentally different way precisely because they don't need to anymore when we actively use our smartphones.
Well a lot of these things are not anything new. The only difference is now they are located in a common place and can be accessed anywhere. We've had calculators aid us to do math problems before smartphones, we'd write addresses and phone numbers in address books, we'd also create photo albums with the pictures we took.

I guess the take away is that there is only so much info that our brains can hold, so we store some information externally. This is something we've always done, smartphones are just the newest way to store things.
 
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Well a lot of these things are not anything new. The only difference is now they are located in a common place and can be accessed anywhere. We've had calculators aid us to do math problems before smartphones, we'd write addresses and phone numbers in address books, we'd also create photo albums with the pictures we took.

I guess the take away is that there is only so much info that our brains can hold, so we store some information externally. This is something we've always done, smartphones are just the newest way to store things.
Absolutely, yeah we've had methods of doing all these things before. The key difference with smartphones however is that we have them attached to us at all times. If we have to figure out a big sum, we don't have to physically hunt down the calculator as it's almost attached to our body. To write down an addresses we don't seek out a pen and paper, we just get the phone out.

To draw a contrast between these, before smartphones you wouldn't get anxiety of you had no paper to write addresses down, or phone book to note a new friends phone number. However, some people do experience anxiety like symptoms if their phones go missing or run out of battery. Wondering how on earth they're going to do their banking, find their way around, ring their friends, despite all these old methods still being available.

Externally storing memories for yourself has always been done, yes. The key take away here however is that such things previously didn't seem to alter the way in which our brain would operate. We would still store things internally to a degree. With a smartphone or other device that spends so much time on your possession however the brain seems to give up trying to store these things altogether, almost reasoning that the phone is some extension of itself and therefore the job is done.
 
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More like they're personal neuro-feedback loop programming devices based on a century of research on how to program the mind and the use of algorithms and dopamine feedback loops to nudge society into a direction more suitable to the technocratic interests of a neo-reactionary aristocracy who wish to be the new masters of reality and turn society into a clockwork beetle hivemind devoid of empathy critical thinking or creativity...
 

Siphonix

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I actually do not own a phone. I use a school iPad, and I don’t even own any mobile games. :shrugs:
 

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