Cell phones have been blamed for everything from frying our brains, to shortening attention spans and making us stupid. But new research shows that the biggest threat may be to our creativity. It should especially be of interest to people in creative and info-driven fields like marketing, journalism and PR.
The NY Times Op Ed Smartphones Don’t Make us Dumb challenges conventional wisdom:
“…there’s little evidence that attention spans are shrinking… a significant deterioration would require a retrofitting of other cognitive functions. Mental reorganization at that scale happens over evolutionary time, not because you got a smartphone.”
However, that doesn’t mean the devices can’t pose other challenges – here’s another excerpt:
“Over the last decade, neuroscientists distinguished two systems of attention and associated thought. One is directed outward, as when you scroll through your email or play Candy Crush. The other is directed inward, as when you daydream, plan what you’ll do tomorrow, or reflect on the past. Clearly, most digital activities call for outwardly directed attention. These two modes of attention work like a toggle switch; when one is on, the other is off.”
The article notes the important role of daydreaming in creativity (although there can be downsides, like negative thoughts and distraction).
“Since 2008, when I first got a smartphone – I have never had to be bored. The phone has invaded every moment of my life. Am I missing out on something by not being bored anymore?”
Over fifteen minutes, she interviews researchers in fields of mind wandering and boredom (who knew there were such specialties?!!). One said “creativity and daydreaming are peas in a pod,” and another complained that the phone is “like an annoying detachable limb.”
The WNYC project challenges us to rethink the relationship with our phones and get more creative. You can participate by signing up here, and downloading an app that helps you track the time you spend on your phone.