[Paleopsych] New Scientist: 'Info-mania' dents IQ more than marijuana
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Mon Apr 25 19:13:32 UTC 2005
'Info-mania' dents IQ more than marijuana
* 14:32 22 April 2005
* Will Knight
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
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
"If left unchecked, info-mania will damage a workers 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."
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
Christopher Kimble, from the University of York, UK, adds that the
quality of information contained in communications can also be a major
problem for workers.
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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* Institute of Psychiatry, University of London
* Hewlett-Packard Bristol Research Labs
* Computer Science, The University of York
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