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Can Your Smart Phone Make You, Well, Smarter?

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 intelligence.

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 sparingly.

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. http://www.notepage.net

 

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