In the first experimental study to find evidence that smartphone interruptions can increase levels of inattention and hyperactivity — both symptoms of ADHD — the University of Virginia carried out a two-week experimental study of 221 students at the University of British Columbia with a team of researchers from the University.
The participants were asked to maximize their phone interruptions for one week by keeping ring alerts, vibration alerts and notification alerts switched on, and their phones within easy reach.
For the second week of the study they were asked to minimize phone interruptions by keeping their phones on silent and all alerts off, and their phones away.
At the end of both weeks participants were asked to complete questionnaires which assessed their levels of inattention and hyperactivity.
The questionnaires showed that students reported significantly higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity when the phone alerts were turned on than when the phones were on silent, with results suggesting that the students were experiencing some of the same symptoms experienced by sufferers of ADHD, including distraction, difficulty focusing, getting bored easily when trying to focus, fidgeting, difficulty sitting still, difficulty doing quiet tasks and activities, and restlessness.
However lead author of the study, Kostadin Kushlev, did stress that ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder, and is not simply a result of using a smartphone, adding, "The findings simply suggest that our constant digital stimulation may be contributing to an increasingly problematic deficit of attention in modern society."
With recent findings showing that smartphone owners spend nearly two hours per day using their phones, 95 percent use their phones during social events, seven in 10 have used their phones while working, and even one in 10 check their phones during sex, no wonder so many of us are struggling to stay in the moment.
The study's findings were presented this week in San Jose, California at the Human-Computer Interaction conference of the Association for Computing Machinery.