iPhone Withdrawal Can Harm Your Brain Performance

By Gerald Lynch on at

Do you feel nervous if your iPhone goes out of arm's reach? There may be a scientific grounding to your separation anxiety, according to the University of Missouri.

Testing 40 participants (who believed they were doing a simple cognitive study, without being in relation to the iPhone), the researchers separated their subjects from their Apple devices, falsely claiming they were causing "Bluetooth interference". They then tested the iPhone owners on a simple quiz, and found that they performed far more poorly when their smartphones were not to hand than they had when they were in a subject's pocket-- despite not being able to use them in the examination anyway.

The researchers also called the iPhones during the test, and noted a sharp decline in performance in line with the missed call.

While the missed call would make anyone anxious (what if it was an emergency?), the test subjects all noted higher levels of anxiety when removed from their phones.

"Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks," said Russell Clayton, lead author of the study.

"Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of 'self' and a negative physiological state."

The report specifically focussed on iPhone users, but you'd have to wonder just how similar the results would have been for any smartphone user. If you're looking for some further reading, I suggest Nicholas Carr's The Shallows -- a fascinating and terrifying look at how mobile devices and ever-present internet access is changing the way our brains work, perhaps irreversibly. [MU News via CNET]