Are Smartphones Becoming a Substitute for Thinking?

smartphone-300x200Alex Pietrowski
Activist Post

Our smartphones are like a wealth of information at our fingertips. They help us find directions to new restaurants, offer information about the places we want to visit, and can instantly answer any question about whatever inquiry fills the mind. But are we getting lazy and avoiding thinking about things that we might already know?

A team of researchers at the University of Waterloo asked just that same question and conducted three studies with a total of 600 participants. The study categorized the subjects by measuring their cognitive style, ranging from intuitive to analytical, and it also evaluated verbal and numerical skills. The study also analyzed the participants’ device usage habits.

What the researchers found was that the convenience of smartphones is making us less likely to use our own brainpower. This effect was more noticeable in intuitive thinkers, which are defined as personas that rely on instincts to make decisions. This type of person seems to be becoming lazier when it comes to thinking about a problem or question, and more often turns to the smartphone’s search engine for answers.

“They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it.” ~ Gordon Pennycook, co-lead author of the study, and a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at Waterloo.

“Decades of research has revealed that humans are eager to avoid expending effort when problem-solving and it seems likely that people will increasingly use their smartphones as an extended mind.” ~ Nathaniel Barr, the other lead author of the paper, and a postdoctoral researcher at Waterloo.

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