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FSU Study Shows Impact of Phone Alerts while Performing any Task

Cellphones have evolved to the point that they have become the most essential item in our lives. Basically, our entire social, economic and daily lives are in it. Moreover, everyday a new app is created increasing the amount of notifications we receive on a daily basis. Whether it’s a buzz, a vibration or a flashing light, just receiving a notification on your cell phone can cause enough of a distraction to impair your ability to focus on a given task, according to a new Florida State University study.

The study, “The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Notification,” was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. Psychology doctoral student Cary Stothart is the lead author of the study, and his co-authors are former FSU postdoctoral researcher Ainsley Mitchum and Yehnert. This is the first study to examine the effect of cell phone notifications on performance.

“Although these notifications are generally short in duration, they can prompt task-irrelevant thoughts, or mind-wandering, which has been shown to damage task performance,” the researchers wrote in the paper. “Cellular phone notifications alone significantly disrupt performance on an attention-demanding task, even when participants do not directly interact with a mobile device during the task.”

For the study, Florida State doctoral student Cary Stothart and 2 other FSU researchers put participants through a series of computer tasks. In one study, participants received no notifications. In another, they randomly received a text, call or notification. They found that those who received a notification were 3 times more likely to make a mistake. The warning from this study is when you’re on the road, you may want to just keep your phone away from you and on silent. It may help to keep you and those around you safe.

Even a slight distraction can have severe, potentially life-threatening effects if that distraction occurs at the wrong time,” Stothart said. “When driving, it’s impossible to know when ‘the wrong time’ will occur. Our results suggest that it is safest for people to mute or turn off their phones and put them out of sight while driving.” Stothart says he and the other researchers will conduct this study again. This time with a driving simulator.

The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Moreover, Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving. Additionally, 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.

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