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Smartphones linked to lazy thinking: Study


QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET

They may be called smartphones but the devices are making our brains lazy, a University of Waterloo study suggests.

Phones today are capable of much more than making and receiving calls, including providing directions and recommending restaurants in an instant, but the convenience could be causing users to rely too heavily on their phones and not enough on their minds.

“They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it,” co-author Gordon Pennycook said in a press release.

Researchers studied 660 people and analyzed their smartphone habits, coupled with their cognitive style, and verbal and number skills.

The study found a link between heavy smartphone use and lower intelligence.

But Pennycook cautioned that “whether smartphones actually decrease intelligence is still an open question that requires future research.”

The study found analytical thinkers with stronger cognitive skills spent less time using their smartphone’s search-engine function, while more intuitive people relied on their phone much more.

“Decades of research has revealed that humans are eager to avoid expending effort when problem-solving and it seems likely that people will increasingly use their smartphones as an extended mind,” co-author Nathaniel Barr wrote.

The researchers said reliance on device-based problem-solving could have consequences for aging, and the trend will likely increase over time so further research is important.

The study was published online last month in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.

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