HEALTH WATCH: Cell phones and cognitive lapses

THE CONSTANT  checking of mobile phones or the internet has been associated with a range of "cognitive failures" in a study by a UK university, which found that people with short attention spans may get worse the more they use their phones 

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 Dr Lee Hadlington of De Montfort University, Leicester, the scientist behind the research, is not claiming that phones make people stupid, The Independent says. He can’t say for certain that the association between cognitive lapses and phone use is a causal one.

Paying constant attention to your handheld device might weaken your ability to concentrate on mental tasks. Or, Hadlington’s results might just show that people with short attention spans are more likely to check their phones frequently.

But Hadlington says he suspects a vicious circle: flighty individuals becoming even more vague as they learn to rely on their devices.

The “cognitive failures” Hadlington highlights are a range of blunders, including the inability to remember why you have come into a room and a general lack of awareness of your surroundings.

Hadlington said: “This is a very under-examined area and a very important one. We are using technology on a daily basis but we don’t understand its effect on us. We don’t know what’s actually happening to our cognition when we are using this technology and that’s the important thing.

“What we do know from this research is that there are some statistically significant numbers of people who say they use the internet or their phone a lot and who experience cognitive failures.”

The study was carried out on 210 people between the ages of 18 and 65 who spent an average of 22.95 hours per week online. It didn’t find any difference between phone users and smartphone users in terms of cognitive failure.

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