Arnold Arao

Osaka Ohtani University

Arnold Arao is the instructor for the Activity Center for English at Osaka Ohtani University. His research focusses on psychosocial linguistics. Currently, he is examining the effects of language on decision making and how digital media and technology affect cognition.


Mobile phone presence and its effect on cognitive performance

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Mobile technology such as the ubiquitous cell phone and the increasingly popular wearable technology, keep us up to date with the world around us. The amount of information that is passed through these devices is incredible. As businesses look to leverage such technology, classrooms around the world have made digital literacy an essential component of 21st Century Skills. Despite this, much research has also cautioned against detriments associated with actively cell phone use (Przybylski & Weinstein, 2012). Recently, there has been interest in the impact of cell phone "presence" on cognitive functioning. Have people become so psychologically dependent on cell phones that their mere “presence” can affect how they think and work? To better understand this, 54 Japanese university students participated in a two-week repeated measures experiment. Participants were given modified versions of the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (TONI) under two controlled conditions: tests taken with mobile devices out of sight and tests taken with mobile devices in plain sight (i.e. on participants’ desks). Scores when mobile devices were present were 20% lower with significant decreases on problems requiring higher cognitive processing. These findings support previous research on the negative impact of cell phones on cognitive functioning (Thornton, Faires, Robbins, & Rollins, 2014). It is the hope that a better understanding of how mobile technology affects cognition will allow educators to better leverage technology in the class, capitalizing on the benefits such technology affords, while reducing its detrimental effects.