January 9, 2021

Turn Off Your Phone Notifications

Seriously, free your attention from distraction.

Turn Off Your Phone Notifications

You should turn your phone notifications off, by default. It’s bad for you.

Your time and attention are precious. Don’t spend it too much on superficial things like social media updates or yet another spam promotions that you don’t have any interest on.

I’m not saying that you should turn off all notifications every time. Instead, you should be very selective and strict on deciding when you can be easily accessed and by whom. Of course, you should be able to respond when your partner calls you. But a stranger replying your tweet during family dinner? I believe that doesn’t deserve even a fraction of your attention.

I know it’s hard to be convinced by a stranger on the internet. Especially when that said stranger can only come up with a couple of seemingly baseless sentence.

That’s why I brought not just one, but four peer-reviewed, scientifically-sound studies to make you think twice about enabling those push notifications from the get-go.

Phone notifications can impair your cognitive ability to finish a task

Let me start with a study by Michael Sciandra from Dolan School of Business, Fairfield University and his peers, Jeffrey Inman and Andrew Stephen[1]. They have studied the effect of phone notifications on how well someone can stick to a task, which is shopping plans in this case.

Michael Sciandra and his peers found that mobile phone use unrelated to the shopping trip can derail the shopping plan. Participants receiving phone notifications while shopping missed some planned shopping items.

To put it simply, push notifications negatively affect cognitive ability. Which in turns make it harder to manage or finish a task, such as a shopping trip.

You’re not convinced yet? Seul-Kee Kim, So-Yeong Kim, and Hang-Bong Kang from the Catholic University of Korea might want to have a few words for you[2]. They studied the effects of push notifications on concentration and cognitive ability, which are very important on finishing a task.

And they don’t mess around with mere self-reported surveys, they were observing changes in participants’ brainwaves.

Unsurprisingly, they also found that push notifications have negative influences on participants’ concentration and cognitive ability.

Phone notifications correlate with a higher level of inattention and hyperactivity

The next evidence is from the States. Kostadin Kushlev from the University of Virginia and his peers Jason Proulx and Elizabeth Dunn, both from the University of British Columbia, have studied the correlation between smartphone notifications and the level of inattention and hyperactivity[3].

They asked around 200 participants to maximize phone interruptions for a week and for another week, to minimize phone alerts. What did they find? Yep, you guessed it. Participants have reported that they’ve had a higher level of inattention and hyperactivity when they turned phone notifications on. Those two are symptoms associated with ADHD, by the way.

Smartphone addiction correlates with a higher level of stress, depression, and anxiety

Finally, I present to you a study from down under. Bert Oraison from College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University and his peers has studied the correlation between smartphone addiction and distractibility with the level of stress, depression, and anxiety[4].

They interviewed more than 100 participants and found that increased usage of the smartphone has detrimental effects on emotional health.

If you’re the type of those who can’t go a second without checking their phones, I think this is the right time to reconsider your unhealthy relationship with smartphone. Or it may cost you your emotional well-being.

To sum up... or TL;DR

Let me finish this post by reinstating my point.

Turn your phone notifications off by default. Push notifications might impair your ability to think. They also correlate with symptoms of ADHD. Finally, you might get a higher level of stress, depression, and anxiety from using smartphone too often.

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1. Sciandra, MR, Inman, JJ, & Stephen AT 2019, ‘Smart phone, bad calls? the influence of consumer mobile phone use, distraction, and phone dependence on adherence to shopping plans’, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 47, pp. 574-594.
2. Kim, SK, Kim, SY, & Kang HB 2016, ‘An analysis of the effects of smartphone push notifications on task performance with regard to smartphone overuse using ERP’, Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience, vol. 2016, pp. 1-8.
3. Kushlev, K, Proulx, J, & Dunn, EW 2016, ‘Silence your phones: smartphone notifications increase inattention and hyperactivity symptoms’, Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1011-1020.
4. Oraison, H, Nash-Dolby, O, Wilson, B, & Malhotra, R 2020, ‘Smartphone distraction-addiction: examining the relationship between psychosocial variables and patterns of use’, Australian Journal of Psychology, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 188-198. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajpy.12281