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Do not put your smartphone on the table!

Putting your smartphone on the table next to you is probably the most normal thing in the world. But it shouldn’t be! That’s what the results of an American study indicate.

We prefer to have our smartphones by our side at all times. But this has an enormous impact on our brain performance, as scientists led by Adrian F. Ward of the University of Texas have discovered in a study. One study observed a total of about 800 subjects in two experiments to find out how specifically the location of the smartphone can affect our brain performance. One group placed their phone on the table, another put the phone in their pocket, and another group had their smartphone placed in another room. A test checks the cognitive abilities of the participants to see if the location of the smartphone has any effect on the brain.

Smartphone best stored in another room

The results were surprising, suggesting that the mere presence of the phone causes the available cognitive power to decrease, as well as impair brain performance. This was despite the fact that the subjects tested knew that they were now supposed to be giving their full attention to the test.

The subjects who stored their cell phone in another room did best on the test. For the participants who placed the cell phone on the table, it did not matter whether the smartphone was turned on or off. The position of the display did not matter either. Even if the person was not using the cell phone, the mere presence of the device was enough. To influence attention and thereby reduce cognitive performance.

Also interesting: This is why you should not take your cell phone with you to the toilet

Mere presence of cell phone leads to less concentration

“We see a linear trend suggesting that as the smartphone becomes more visible, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Ward said in a statement . “You’re not consciously thinking about your smartphone, but that process – the process you need to not think about something – uses some of your limited cognitive resources,” Ward continued. Brain power is thus massively limited when we have our phone nearby, he said. But it wasn’t because the subjects received notifications on their phones that they were distracted, he said. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive abilities,” Ward explains.

Daniel Oppenheimer, a professor of psychology at the University of California, has previously researched this altered ability to concentrate on other objects. “We know that cell phones are highly desirable and that many people are addicted to their cell phones . I n that sense, it’s not that surprising that having a visible cell phone nearby would put a strain on mental resources. But this study is the first to actually demonstrate that effect. A n important implication given the prevalence of cell phones in modern society,” Oppenheimer told The Atlantic.”

You might think of the study when you’re about to put your cell phone on the table for an important task. If your phone is out of reach, you’re sure to get through the task at hand much faster. Then you can go back to your cravings and check your smartphone notifications for now.


  • Adrian F. Ward
  • Research (University Chicago Press)
  • Statement by Ward (University of Texas at Austin)
  • The Atlantic