People who use mobile phones and Internet heavily are more likely to forget things, make blunders and be less aware of their surroundings, according to research. In the first academic study of its kind into how our ability to concentrate is affected by Internet and mobile phone use, Dr Lee Hadlington of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) studied 210 people aged 18-65 and asked them to rate their behaviour in key areas linked to perception, memory and motor function. He found the more times a person spent on the Internet or on a mobile phone – even those without Internet access - the more likely they were to experience "cognitive failures". These included missing important appointments, failing to notice sign posts on the road, daydreaming while being spoken to and forgetting why they went from one part of the house to another. Previous research into multi-tasking has found people with excessive online use were less able to filter out irrelevant material and focus on the task in hand. But this is the first times that both time spent on the Internet and phones has been measured on our daily lives in this way. The research has been published in the US journal Computers In Human Behaviour. Dr Hadlington (pictured above) said: "This is a very under-examined area and a very important one. We are using technology on a daily basis but we don’t understand its effect on us. “We don’t know what’s actually happening to our cognition when we are using this technology and that’s the important thing. What we do know from this research is that there are statistically significant numbers of people who say they use the Internet or their phone a lot and who experience cognitive failures. “We need to understand more about whether it is affecting the way we think. We are almost oblivious to the impact it could have.” The study asked a sample of people a series of questions designed to determine whether they experienced certain types of “blunders” – defined as factors relating to ability to focus, physical blunders such as bumping into things and memory.
Dr Hadlington said it was not known whether the Internet or mobile phone use caused people to lose focus, or whether people who spent excessive time online or on their phones were more likely to have attention issues. Dr Hadlington is now conducting a new study with smartphone users to measure their levels of cognitive failures. The study sample was made up of 107 men and 103 women, who all averaged 22.95 hours online every week.
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