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Avoid Electronic Mail
06-18-2007, 04:31 PM,
Avoid Electronic Mail

AGENCIES | April 23, 2005 | 06:28 IST (article from this link)

People who constantly write e-mails / text messages and attend phone calls suffer a greater loss of IQ and concentration than those who smoke marijuana, says a report in The Guardian quoting a recent study.

And men are most at risk.

Dr Glenn Wilson, a psychologist at King's College, London University, who conducted a survey for technology major Hewlett Packard, says: "It is obvious that full concentration is impossible when we have one eye on e-mails or text messages."

"We found that mental performance, the capability of the brain, was also reduced. Workers cannot think as well when they are worrying about e-mail or voicemails. It effectively reduces their IQ," says Wilson.

This 'infomania' distracts workers, lowers productivity, and causes a reduction in mental capability equal to a loss of ten IQ points as the brains suffer from information overload, says the study.

The tests conducted on 1,000 volunteers showed that tapping away on a mobile phone or a computer keypad knocks ten points off your IQ, while you drop only four points on smoking marijuana. More than 60 per cent of those surveyed admitted to being e-mail and text addicts.

Wilson also suggested that the "modern culture of information could cause a permanent drop in intelligence."

"The impairment only lasts for as long as the distraction. But you have to ask whether our current obsession with constant communication is causing long-term damage to concentration and mental ability," says Wilson.

Many companies have banned their employees from e-mailing as the information overload is believed to cost corporates millions in productivity loss annually.

Despite this being the age of multi-tasking, the research reveals that the human brain finds it hard to manage lots of tasks at one time, thus reducing its efficiency.

"This is a very real and widespread phenomenon. We found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker's performance by reducing their mental sharpness. Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working," says Wilson.

How to deal with the problem

"The most effective way to deal with the problem," says Wilson, "is to switch these things off. We have to learn to control technology rather than letting it control us."

But the fact that people constantly break their concentration in order to answer and check these messages shows that they are obsessed with technology.

Almost two out three people check their electronic messages out of office hours and when on holiday. Half of those surveyed said they replied to e-mails within an hour of receiving them.

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