Prolonged Smartphone Usage Could Hurt Your Learning Ability

Continual and disruptive smartphone use can harm your ability to focus on anything that doesn’t involve your phone itself, hampering your learning abilities, according to researchers from the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Tartu in Estonia.

What to know:

  • The disruptively habitual use of smartphones can have detrimental consequences, which include an inability to exert prolonged mental effort on tasks that don’t involve the phone as well as a disrupting your long-term ability to focus and learn.

  • The brain needs to select among available actions and when there are multiple alternatives, it may perform a cost-benefit analysis and choose the easiest option with short-term gratification.

  • Certain smartphone-related activities such as videos, images, texts, posts, or comments may have a perceived more favorable cost-benefit ratio than do other tasks, with social media apps offering rewards in the form of likes, shares, and view counts.

  • People often avoid cognitive work because it involves more effort, and our ability to focus and exert effort is compromised because pervasive access to smartphones means that there is always something new to easily access and distract us.

  • The unwillingness to devote time outside the realm of your smart phone activities to interests that may have potential future benefits might negatively affect real-life creativity and learning, which call for a continuous investment of mental effort over weeks, months, and years.

This is a summary of the article “The Effect of Smartphone Use on Mental Effort, Learning, and Creativity” published by Trends in Cognitive Sciences on July 27, 2022. The full article can be found on

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