Being separated from iPhones makes people stupid and anxious

‘Nomophobia’ — the fear of not having your phone — makes people much less clever

Being separated from iPhones makes people stupid, according to new research.

People who were unable to answer their phone while doing cognitive tasks did much worse than others, an experiment has found. While their phone was ringing and they were unable to answer it, their heart rate and blood pressure increased, as well as feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness.

Two groups were asked to do wordsearch puzzles, with one doing so while they could hear their phone ringing, write Russell B Clayton, Glenn Leshner and Anthony Almond in the paper, ‘The extended iSelf’, published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. The group that were separated from their iPhones did worse in the task.

Attachment to mobile phones may be a result of their ability to give us information, social interaction and personal safety, according to other researchers. Some become anxious without their phone because they have a fear of missing out. Phones help people feel a sense of ‘extended self’ — the idea that people’s possessions can become an extension of themselves.

The feelings are so strong that psychiatrists have coined the word “nomophobia” —  a combination of “no mobile phone” and phobia.

That anxiety was the likely reason for the experiments’ subjects feelings of anxiety and their bad performance in the wordsearches, the scientists said.

The researchers said that the results provide insight into attention and how distractions can lead us astray. Not being able to answer the phone might make us worse at our job, interacting with people and engaging with media.

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