Saturday, April 30, 2005

IQ Dips More on Email Than Pot

Red Herring

Scientists find distractions of email, instant messages, and phone calls temporarily lower employee IQ by 10 points—more than twice the effect of marijuana.

The constant barrage of emails, text messages, and phone calls decreases IQ test scores in office workers more than twice as much as smoking marijuana, British researchers reported Friday.

Scientists at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that environments with distracting technologies lower IQ by an average of more than 10 points when compared with quiet conditions.

By comparison, other research has shown that smoking marijuana causes just a 4-point drop. A 10-point reduction is similar to the impact of missing an entire night’s sleep.

The study also demonstrated that the problem is widespread. A separate survey of 1,100 people found that 62 percent of British adults check messages out of office hours and when on holiday, and most employees respond to an email within an hour.

“We have found that infomania, if unchecked, will damage a worker’s performance by reducing their mental sharpness,” said researcher Dr. Glenn Wilson.

Asked if he had a message for Silicon Valley, Dr. Wilson told Red Herring, “Control technology rather than let it control you.”

Frequent phone calls and incoming emails had a greater impact on the IQ of men than women.

However, female employees reported higher stress levels from constant distraction. The IQ tests were carried out on 80 office workers.

“This is more worrying when you consider the consequent impact on businesses,” said Hewlett-Packard spokesman David Smith, pointing out that HP didn’t want to discourage people from buying its products.

HP commissioned the study.

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