Despite all the good they do for us, cell phones still
seem to have a bad reputation when it comes to our intelligence.
We've all heard about fears of the prevalence of cell
phones and texting causing our minds to rot away, damaging
our grammar, spelling capabilities, interpersonal skills,
and even capacity for profound thought. However, it's
possible that we may use our phones to the exact opposite
effect; smart phones may in fact be used to enhance
While smart phones may not be the impetus for intelligence-enhancing
programs such as Lumosity, they certainly make them
more accessible. Lumosity is an online-based program
providing a myriad of games that challenge and improve
various aspects of users' intelligence, and its tactics
are supported by substantial neuroscience research.
With a Lumosity smart phone application on the market,
even in our busy lives can we make time for some simple
games that sharpen our thinking; if you could get smarter
waiting in line at the post office, why wouldn't you?
The games Lumosity offers are thoughtfully designed
to target certain skills, but are ultimately just a
collection of challenges. And for good reason. Taking
on challenging new activities enhances intelligence,
as supported by a 2007 study that demonstrated increased
cortical activity and thickness in participants after
two weeks of wrestling with a new video game.
If unfamiliar games and new challenges can make a lingering,
positive impact on neural activity, smart phones can
certainly be an agent of long-term heightened neural
action. Trying out new games or downloading puzzle applications
such as crosswords or sudoku in search of a challenge
may be a step towards a more active brain and perhaps
even better thinking and greater intelligence. Similarly,
simply finding an unfamiliar activity on or with aid
from your phone can help in this journey.
The positive impact of novelty on our intelligence
does not stop at challenges; new content in general
stimulates the mind, encourages new types of thinking,
and can broaden intelligence. When it comes to exposing
us to new content, smart phones may well reign as champions.
Smart phones allow us to expose ourselves to a huge
amount of web content throughout the day that we may
not otherwise see, at least not nearly in such large
amounts. Reading interesting articles or watching talks
while you wait for your coffee are great ways to expose
yourself to novel content.
Another way smart phones are agents of this sort of
novelty is through their tendency to make us more connected
and social. When better connected to those we know and
more socially involved with those we know well, we are
more likely to be exposed to new ideas and opinions,
many of which differ from our own. Encountering novel
ideas, particularly ones we oppose, encourages, broadens,
and deepens our thinking. Therefore, your smart phone
and social media may actually offer some benefit to
your thinking and intelligence.
While the way we use our minds is essential to the
state of our intellect, the health of our minds is also
an important, if often neglected, player. The mind requires
adequate rest, proper nutrition, and even routine exercise
to function optimally. Thankfully, smart phones aid
in this department, too; an abundance of applications
intended to do things such as encourage better sleep;
track diet and promote healthier eating choices; and
track and encourage exercise are available for smart
phones. Using such apps can help us stick to the healthier
habits that allow for optimal thought and intelligence.
Another application of smart phones to brain-boosting
health is simply to use your phone to set alarms to
remind you to go for that run or to get ready for bed
at a reasonable time. Though basic, it is an easy way
to use your device to make time in your day for things
that will improve your health and sharpen your mind.
Though smart phones can be applied to an effort to
enhance intelligence in many ways, nothing is perfect;
smart phones present several potential obstacles to
enhancing intelligence, too. One such hindrance is their
tendency to make so many tasks easier than they would
otherwise be. While smart phones can provide many new
challenges, having fully-equipped calculators and maps
with GPS and directions in our back pockets removes
many of the challenges of everyday life.
The addage "use it or lose it" rings true here; when
we don't use skills, they weaken. Similarly, if we don't
use certain types of skills that comprise a type of
intelligence, that type of intelligence can diminish.
Therefore, the ease and convenience that smart phones
offer may have some negative long-term effects. However,
this is far from a death sentence for intellect; the
convenient features of smart phones are likely not degrading
our collective intelligence in any significant way,
and those who are particularly concerned with the sharpness
of their minds can simply opt to use these features
Another potential harm to intelligence posed by smart
phones is their tendency to pull us away from the real
world. While smart phones are often great at bringing
us new content, they may also distract us from novel
real-world experiences, perspectives, and challenges
with more trivial material. Smart phones therefore hold
the potential to detract from this type of intelligence-building
interaction. While you will always miss some things
in life, the best way to avoid doing so due to your
phone is simply to stay present; control how much time
you spend using your phone to do unproductive things
and participate in the world around you.
Smart phones do an abundance of amazing things for
us, but it is important to note that making you smarter
overnight is not one of them. Your smart phone can,
however, be implemented in a way that will aid you substantially
in the process of expanding your mind and heightening
your intelligence. Use your phone right, and you may
be surprised at what it can do!
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.