Cellphone usage during breaks leads to mental depletion, researchers suggest

According to a study by scientists of Rutgers University, using a cellphone during breaks can lead to poor performance and mental depletion. Based on the research, cellphone usage does not allow the user’s brain to recharge in an efficient manner.

For the experiment, undergraduates were asked to solve challenging word puzzles. Some were allowed to take breaks by using their cellphone, while they were halfway through. Others took a break by using a computer or a paper and some did not take a break at all.

Reports suggest there were in total 414 participants and they were given 20 word puzzles. The participants were asked to buy items within a specific budget by using either computer, paper or the cellphone. Moreover, they were asked to write or type the reasons for their choice.

It was thus observed that students who took a cellphone break faced the highest level of mental depletion and were also the ones who were not capable of solving puzzles later. Furthermore, results indicated that their post-break efficiency and their quickness to solving the puzzles could be compared to those who took no break at all. They could also solve puzzles better than the ones who took no break, but it was still worse than the other participants.

It was also noted, that the students who took a cellphone break took 19% longer to complete a task, and could solve 22% fewer problems than those who had other break conditions.

“The act of reaching for your phone between tasks, or mid-task, is becoming more commonplace. It is important to know the costs associated with reaching for this device during every spare minute. We assume it’s no different from any other break – but the phone may carry increasing levels of distraction that make it difficult to return focused attention to work tasks,” according to Terri Kurtzberg, a co-author and associate professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School.

According to Kurtzberg, cellphones could have this effect because even by just seeing the cellphone, it could activate the thought of connecting to people, checking messages and even accessing refilling information. This is different in comparison to the breaks taken by using a computer or even laptops.