WATCH ABOVE: Researchers at the University of Waterloo are testing whether the smartphone has, in some ways, replaced our brains. Reid Fiest explains.
You’ll spot a smartphone in any school hallway across Canada, but is smart technology making us dumb?
According to the findings of new research from the Univeristy of Waterloo, the convenience of having so much information at our fingertips has led to some of us becoming lackadaisical when we’re looking for answers or solving problems.
“What we find is that the lazier thinkers tend to be more prone to look things up on their smartphones,” said post-doctoral researcher Nathaniel Barr.
Barr and his fellow researchers surveyed 660 people across North America for a paper titled The brain in your pocket: Evidence that Smartphones are used to supplant thinking.
The study found that people who tend to go with their gut instincts, and who use their smartphones regularly, are more likely to use their devices to search for information that they may actually already know or could learn with little effort.
At the same time, analytical thinkers or people “who demonstrated stronger cognitive skills” avoided searching for answers on smartphones.
Global News spoke with students at Calgary’s SAIT Polytechnic, who admitted they often take the easy route thanks to having the technology in the palms of their hands.
“Yeah, I could be a lot smarter than I am,” said first-year SAIT Polytechnic Business student Sydney Schaeffler. “What’s the answer to this simple question? Oh, Google is right there.”
She and fellow student Madison Pidhorney admit their smartphone obsessions are affecting intelligence.
“The technology is getting higher and higher and it’s just kind of taking over our brains,” said Pidhorney. “We’re not really paying attention to what is going on around us, I can admit that.”
Calgary blogger Mike Morrison, who makes a living off of people reading his thoughts, agreed our phones could be having a negative effect.
“We’re just not being asked to think critically anymore,” Morrison said. “We’re not being asked to research anymore.”
But SAIT student Braydon Ross doesn’t think smartphones are all bad. He said people are still doing research, but in a different way than was customary in the past.
“Most students are using smartphones right now because it’s the general norm,” said Ross. “Everyone has one, everyone is using it, and it’s today’s new technology.”
Barr said more study is needed to determine if the devices are bad for long-term brain development, but he noted smartphones aren’t all bad.
The results of the University of Waterloo research were published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.