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This Common “Brain-Draining” Habit Is Killing Your Cognitive Capacity

Say you’re sitting in front of your computer, putting together a presentation for your meeting later that week. This task obviously requires quite a bit of your cognitive capacity–you have to include data, provide analysis, and package it in an aesthetically pleasing way.

You’re determined to knock out this presentation as quickly as possible, so you have everything you need right on the screen in front of you (a blank powerpoint presentation, relevant spreadsheets, etc.).

There’s no reason to touch (or even think about) your phone as you’re completing this task. And yet, a 2017 scientific review from the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research suggests that the mere presence of your smartphone in your workspace can distract you from your presentation and limit your attentional resources–even if you’re not actively thinking about your phone or phone-related tasks.

After conducting two separate experiments to see just how smartphones affect cognitive performance, researchers determined that simply having a smartphone nearby while you’re trying to focus on a task may reduce cognitive capacity, regardless of whether or not you’re interacting with it or receiving notifications.

Additionally, researchers found that the more an individual depends on their smartphone, the more likely they are to be distracted by its presence.

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