Thanks to smartphones, the days of trying to remember numbers, addresses and some obscure fact on the tip of your tongue are long gone. Now you can just whip out that mini-computer and look up the answer.
But experts say this access to unlimited troves of information might actually be making us dumber -- or, at least, encouraging people who are less inclined to think critically to think even less critically.
A new psychological study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior has linked excessive smartphone usage with mental laziness. (More like "dumbphones," said every cranky old man in the world.) Titled "The brain in your pocket: Evidence that Smartphones are used to supplant thinking," it assessed 660 people and found that those who exhibit higher intelligence tended to search on their smartphones less often.
The researchers asked participants about their smartphone addiction and evaluated their verbal, literary and thinking skills. Those in the less-brilliant camp "may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it," wrote Gordon Pennycook, co-leader of the study. "Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence."
Whether this is correlation or causation is yet to be determined, but it'll be an important question in the coming years.
"It seems likely that people will increasingly use their smartphones as an extended mind," added Dr. Nathaniel Barr, the study's other co-author. "It's important to understand how smartphones affect and relate to human psychology before these technologies are so fully ingrained that it’s hard to recall what life was like without them. We may already be at that point."
Isn't this what "South Park" predicted back in 2000 when Cartman merged with a smart-Trapper Keeper? Soon we'll all be sentient data monsters.