Emails ‘pose threat to IQ’

An article
by the guardian talks about how email can become adictive and actually lower your IQ like drugs.

The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis, according to a survey of befuddled volunteers.

Doziness, lethargy and an increasing inability to focus reached “startling” levels in the trials by 1,100 people, who also demonstrated that emails in particular have an addictive, drug-like grip.

Respondents’ minds were all over the place as they faced new questions and challenges every time an email dropped into their inbox. Productivity at work was damaged and the effect on staff who could not resist trying to juggle new messages with existing work was the equivalent, over a day, to the loss of a night’s sleep.

I think the same thing could be said of any highly distractive activity. People don’t multitask as well as they think they do.

“This is a very real and widespread phenomenon,” said Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist from King’s College, London University, who carried out 80 clinical trials for TNS research, commissioned by the IT firm Hewlett Packard. The average IQ loss was measured at 10 points, more than double the four point mean fall found in studies of cannabis users.

So I wonder what having 4 small children does to the IQ of an unorganized mother? It seems like it would have a similiar effect. I would like to see a study showing the IQ impact of various work spaces. For example, do shared workspaces where people get interrupted a lot result in a lower IQ than areas where everyone has their own office? If so could you sue your employer for reducing your IQ because they don’t give you your own office to work in?

The most damage was done, according to the survey, by the almost complete lack of discipline in handling emails. Dr Wilson and his colleagues found a compulsion to reply to each new message, leading to constant changes of direction which inevitably tired and slowed down the brain.

One of the advantages of using books to study is the fact when you have to look the book up in the library, go get it, and then find a place to sit down and study you are not going to just jump to anothe r book if it seems tough or if you hit a section you don’t understand. You naturally develop a level of concentration that doesn’t come as easily when using the internet.

If people adopt a process where they either respond, delete, or defer each message as it comes in, the issues mentioned in the article are likely to go away. The big problem comes when you spend very brief amounts of time thinking about each message and perhaps responding, but not in ways that actually moves you to a state where you can delete or archive the email.


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