Science 2 min read

Cognitive Costs of Using Smartphones During Break Times

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

A new study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University revealed the cognitive costs of using a cellphone to take breaks in between tasks.

Apparently, mobile phone usage is more cognitively demanding than what experts previously thought. That’s the case especially for people who are stressed and in need of some mental break.

Based on their experiment, Rutgers researchers found that phone usage while on break is not allowing the brain to recharge efficiently.

In their paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, the researchers wrote:

“The results show that using cell phone for a break did not allow brain to recharge as effectively as the other types of breaks, both in terms of being able to perform quickly and efficiently in the second half of the task (how long it took to complete), and in terms of performance (how many anagrams were successfully solved in the second half).”

Cognitive Costs of Cellphone Usage

For the researchers to measure the cognitive costs of using cellphones, they asked 414 college students to solve complicated sets of word puzzles.

Halfway through answering the puzzles, some students were allowed to take breaks using their cellphones. Others have been allowed to take breaks using papers or computers, while the rest had no break at all.

The students who took breaks using their phones reportedly experienced the “highest level of mental depletion,” making it extra challenging for them to solve the puzzles. Researchers noted that the efficiency and quickness of these students post-break were comparable to those students who had not taken any break.

Students who took breaks using their smartphones allegedly took 19 percent longer to accomplish the rest of the tasks. They also solved 22 percent fewer problems than those who spent their breaks doing something else.

The researchers concluded:

“The question is whether taking a break with a cellphone in hand serves as a true mental break from actual work tasks, or whether looking at a phone might unintentionally add to the cognitive load of the mind instead of relieving it. The results show that breaks might be better spent without the cell phone, if the goal is to have restored cognitive ability for subsequent work tasks.”

Read More: What To Know About Phone Addiction And Brain Development

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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