Dealing with email, instant messages, and other messaging interruptions throughout the day is more damaging to one’s IQ than either lack of sleep, or using marijuana, according to a recent study of more than 1,000 Brits conducted on behalf of HP.
Now, it’s important to bear in mind that what they were measuring when they say “IQ” is cognitive functions as affected that day by events of that day, not one’s overall and permanent IQ level. Still, it’s sobering to realize that the constant bombardment of interruptions throughout our day by email, instant messages, telephone calls, and text messages, is making us stupid.
According to the study, such bombardment has an effect which is the functional equivalent of not having slept at all the night before, and is actually worse than having smoked marijuana. The study quantifies the negative impact of having smoked pot as a loss of four IQ points, while people who have either not slept, or who are dealing with a constant onslaught of email, and phone and instant messages, lose as many as ten IQ points.
This could explain a lot about the grades seen on college exams following late-night study sessions in the 60s.
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Some interesting tidbits from the study include that almost two-thirds of workers check electronic messages even when away from the office and on holiday, that half of surveyed respond to email within an hour of receiving it, and that 20% will actually interrupt a business or social engagement to respond to email or an instant message. There was no explanation as to how they are receiving these message during their business or social engagements. A majority of people thought that colleagues who interrupted in-person engagements to answer messages were rude, but 30% thought that it was a sign of efficiency and diligence.
Said Dr. Glenn Wilson, who conducted the study for HP, “This is a very real and widespread phenomenon. We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker’s performance by reducing their mental sharpness. Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working.”
David Smith of HP added that “The research suggests that we are in danger of being caught up in a 24-hour ‘always on’ society.”
So how about you? Are you stuck in that “always on” trap? Annoyed by people who are?
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