It makes sense that your cell phone can occupy your brain when you’re using it; but guess what? Its mere presence can also take a mental toll. According to a paper published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, even when a person is able to avoid the temptation to check their phone, the fact that the phone is there reduces the person’s available cognitive capacity.
In other words, on a cognitive level, some of your brain capacity remains focused on / distracted by your phone, even when you’re not using it. You may be avoiding / ignoring your phone on a conscious level, but it’s still occupying brain space. In fact, you may be thinking about the fact that you’re avoiding it, or how long you’ll avoid it before picking it up again to check “what you missed” while the two of you were separated.
The result? Potentially poorer performance on other tasks because your brain can only handle so much information at one time (cognitive capacity), according to researchers.
Considering how many people currently possess a smartphone (265 million in the U.S. as of 2019 – that’s almost everyone who could be considered even reasonably old enough to have one), how can we combat what the researchers call “brain drain” caused by phone presence?
It starts with consciously evolving from a Where is it? What am I missing out on? Could someone be trying to contact me? Who just posted something? mentality to a Yes, I have a phone, but I don’t need it right now mindset. It may take some time, and you may experience some withdrawal symptoms, but before you know it, your phone won’t be as front-and-center in your mind, consciously or unconsciously.