051222 phone creativity Editorial

Being glued to smartphones can limit creativity, study shows

In the age of smartphones and instant gratification, it’s easy to banish boredom. The moment we start to get bored, all we have to do is reach for our phones, and either scroll through social media, or log onto the OTT platform to enjoy our favorite shows. But as creative coach Mark McGuinness asked, “Can the death of boredom mean the death of your creativity?”

Posted in Cognitive and Affective Social NeuroscienceBeing glued to our smartphones can actually limit the creative capacity of our brains, a new study suggests.

The researchers assigned a small group of 48 participants – ages 18 to 25 – using the Smartphone Addiction Scale (SAS). When given a creative task — to come up with alternative uses for an everyday item within a short time — individuals with high SAS scores performed poorly on fluency, flexibility, and originality.

Through neuroimaging, the researchers found that among the participants with a high SAS score, the brain’s prefrontal cortex and temporal regions were not as active when they were asked to think creatively, compared to those with low SAS scores.

Creative ignition—defined, to a large extent, as “the set of mental processes that support the generation of new and useful ideas”—depends on inhibitory control and working memory, among other factors. As such, the association between increased smartphone use and decreased creativity makes sense.


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This is not the first time that research has linked smartphone use with aspects of cognition. Another study – published in June of the year in International journal of environmental and public health research It also relied on SAS scores to measure how addicted its 111 participants were to their smartphones. The researchers then assessed the effect of addiction on the participants’ cognitive abilities. They noted that people with high SAS scores showed poor working memories and behavioral inhibitions. Compared to individuals with low SAS scores, they also had worse auditory and visual reaction times.

Another study – published a decade ago in Perspectives in Psychology He also pointed out that smartphone users get bored more easily, forcing them to seek greater stimulation from screens, trapping them in a vicious circle.

“Reflexive withdrawal from my country [smartphone]… I suddenly realized that it is very similar to [a] The nail-biting habit, except for one important aspect: Biting my nails only occupies a tiny percentage of my brain’s capacity and can, in fact, by warding off distracting thoughts, help me focus on reading this book or doing that amount,” wrote Ian Robertson, neuroscientist. and a clinical psychologist who was not involved in any of the recent studies, in Psychology Today.” [smartphone] Habit, on the other hand, is neurologically all-consuming—vision, touch, memory, and thinking are all fully occupied by this brilliantly brilliant piece of technological seduction and its inspired and all-consuming software systems.”

“Always on your smartphone can interfere with your memory and creativity,” Robertson added.

noted John Eastwood, lead author of the 2012 study and a psychologist at York University in Toronto. “We say, ‘I’m bored, so I’m going to show up on TV or go to a noisy movie.'” But boredom is like quicksand: the more we move, the faster we sink. And in the process, creativity suffers.


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Previous research has also indicated that when we’re bored, and our minds are unfocused and wandering, our brains may be more active than ever. “People assumed that when your mind wandered it was blank… [But] Mind-wandering is a more active state than we imagined,” Kalina Kristoff, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, told the Wall Street Journal. According to Kristoff, an unfocused, wandering mind is often a perfect breeding ground for creativity.

However, this does not mean that technology exists according stifles creativity. For example, research suggests that video games can, in fact, train our brains to be more creative.

Technology allows for a greater flow of information and greater access to ideas, which arguably enhances creativity. “Technology not only enables creativity but also fuels it. With platforms like YouTube, anyone with an internet connection can hone their skills and get inspired by others, while meeting sites allow budding musicians, writers or filmmakers to come together and explore ideas and technologies,” says an article on Raconteur. “In the past, there were barriers to creative success that technology has eroded. Thanks to the Internet, artists in small villages can reach a wide audience on the other side of the planet, and we can in turn experience the kinds of creativity that come from vastly different cultures, enhancing our culture.”

This brings us to the old adage: too much of everything is bad. In moderation, technology can not only enhance creativity but also help people channel it. However, addiction to technology in the form of smartphones can suppress it.

Currently, smartphone addiction is not classified as a disorder in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), but many researchers make a case for this.