[Paleopsych] 'Info-mania' dents IQ more than marijuana

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Mon Apr 25 13:43:42 UTC 2005

The relentless influx of emails, cellphone calls and instant messages 
received by modern workers can reduce their IQ by more than smoking 
marijuana, suggests UK research.
Far from boosting productivity, the constant flow of messages and 
information can seriously reduce a person's ability to focus on tasks, the 
study of office workers found.
Eighty volunteers were asked to carry out problem solving tasks, firstly in 
a quiet environment and then while being bombarded with new emails and 
phone calls. Although they were told not to respond to any messages, 
researchers found that their attention was significantly disturbed.
Alarmingly, the average IQ was reduced by 10 points - double the amount 
seen in studies involving cannabis users. But not everyone was affected by 
to the same extent - men were twice as distracted as women.
"If left unchecked, 'info-mania' will damage a worker's performance by 
reducing their mental sharpness," says Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at the 
University of London, UK, who carried out the study, sponsored by 
Hewlett-Packard. "This is a very real and widespread phenomenon."
Losing sleep
Wilson adds that working amid a barrage of incoming information can reduce 
a person's ability to focus as much as losing a night's sleep.
The study also polled 1100 workers and found many are becoming addicted to 
modern modes of communications. One in five workers said they would answer 
messages during a meal or a social engagement, while two thirds admitted to 
checking emails outside working hours and even on holiday.
Christopher Kimble, from the University of York, UK, adds that the quality 
of information contained in communications can also be a major problem for 
His own research, carried out within a large multinational company, shows 
that key employees, such as secretaries and IT support staff, can be 
particularly affected by misleading or incomplete emails. These increase 
the time required to complete the task, when a short phone conversation 
would have been much more efficient.

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