Pining for your iPhone can numb the brain, study says

Technically Incorrect: Researchers from the University of Missouri say that iPhone separation anxiety can cause you to perform poorly on cognitive tests.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

What are you without your iPhone? A touch brain-dead, according to this research. CNET

It didn't come with an umbilical cord. It just came with a charger.

But your smartphone is now more than just your baby. It's your lifeline to your very self.

How bad is it, though, when you are parted from your phone? Do you pine? Do you whine? Does your mind shut down in plaintive grief?

Researchers at the University of Missouri thought they'd test this out. Their conclusions might, to some, seem positively mind-numbing.

Just the headline from the university's own newsroom makes my timbers shiver: "iPhone Separation Linked to Physiological Anxiety, Poor Cognitive Performance, MU Study Finds."

Russell Clayton, lead author of the study, offered this chilling appraisal: "Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks."

And it's not just that your brain begins to malfunction. Oh, no. There is more deleterious deliciousness.

Clayton explained: "Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of 'self' and a negative physiological state."

Ladies, if you see a cute but moody man in a bar, please don't immediately think: "He must be an artist." No, try thinking: "He's left his iPhone at home."

You'll be wondering how the researchers reached these painful conclusions. They lied, naturally. They told their guinea pigs that they were testing a wireless blood pressure cuff.

Then they gave their victims word puzzles to do. However, they had to perform them with and without their iPhones. (The researchers specifically use the word "iPhone." And the research report says that all 40 participants were iPhone users. )

Again, the researchers lied to separate their subjects from their phones. They told them the phones were causing "Bluetooth interference." Then, just to ladle on the cruelty, they not only separated people from their phones, but they called those phones while the participants were solving their second word puzzle.

And, my, did their cognitive performance sink.

Still, doesn't everyone get a little more anxious when their phone rings? Isn't this less an expression of longing than one of worry that this might be urgent or even bad news?

Moreover, the subjects reported their levels of anxiety themselves. Might they have exaggerated?

And might this research truly say something about iPhone owners? Might it suggest that they are all drama queens who stand in dutiful line to buy their designer gadgets because they're all neurotics in the first place?

Still, let those who don't mind being separated from their phone cast the first aspersion. I know that when I go out and forgot my phone, I feel slightly denuded and anxious.

Perhaps someone is trying to contact me. Perhaps some astonishing piece of news is happening right now and I don't know about it ("Snapchat buys the New York Times!")

What has the magical revolution of technology wrought? Dependents, that's what.