When you are studying, writing or in the middle of a task that requires a lot of concentration and you decide to take a break, what do you usually do? You’re sure to check your cell phone, reply to pending messages, or log in to Facebook and Instagram to view memes and other posts.
Even if you find things that make you laugh, or positive messages in social networks, the truth is that this practice may not really serve our goal of relaxing our minds and feeling more rested.
New research has revealed that using the mobile phone during breaks from mentally demanding tasks makes it harder for the brain to rest and can lead to poorer performance once it is resumed.
Using the cell phone to rest reduces performance
Participants who used their cell phones during the break demonstrated lower performance than those who did not.
In a series of experiments, researchers gathered a group of college students and assigned them the task of solving a series of highly complex word puzzles. They were able to take a break, and during this break, some were allowed to use their cell phones, while others used paper or a computer. Others simply did not take any breaks.
They noted that the participants who used their phones during the break experienced higher levels of mental exhaustion, and worst of all, this negatively affected their ability to solve the puzzles.
Of course, when comparing their efficiency and speed with those who did not take a break, those who rested using their cell phones performed better as they were able to solve more word puzzles. However, this performance was always below that of the other participants.
More specifically, participants who took breaks using their cell phones took 19 percent longer to do the task, and they solved 22 percent fewer word puzzles than those in the other break conditions.
Using the cell phone also drains our brains
But why does this happen if they’re not supposed to check their cell phone in a recreational way? Well, checking the pending on our phone, such as text messages, answering other people through the networks, accessing information that is constantly updated also involves energy consumption and the use of our brain, already exhausted with previous tasks that involve the use of screens like those of the computer, for example. So explains Terri Kurtzberg, associate professor of global business and management at Rutgers University School of Business and co-author of this research:
“Cell phones can have this effect because even looking at your phone activates the idea of checking messages, connecting with people, accessing information that is always being recharged, and more, in different ways than how we use other screens like computers and laptops.
This is an important finding, without a doubt. To be able to accomplish our work or academic tasks quickly and efficiently, we need to have a brain in optimal condition. To do this, we must sleep and eat well, but also respect the breaks we take between our duties.