You already shouldn't use your cellphone in situations where you have to pay attention, like when you're driving or supposedly listening during a meeting.
But a new study is telling us that it's not even the use of your phone that can distract you — it's just having it nearby.
According to an article in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, while a lot of research has been done about what happens to our brain while we're using our phones, not as much has focused on changes that occur when we're just around our phones.
Researchers asked participants to either place phones on the desks they were working at, in their bags or in their pockets, or in another room entirely. They were then tested on measures that specifically targeted attention, as well as problem solving.
According to the study, "the mere presence of participants' own smartphones impaired their performance," noting that even though the participants received no notifications from their phones over the course of the test, they did far more poorly than the other test conditions.
These results are particularly interesting in light of "nomophobia" — that is, the fear of being away from your mobile phone. While it by no means affects the entire population, many people do report feelings of panic when they don't have access to data or wifi, for example.
A "cure" for the problem can be a digital detox, which involves disconnecting entirely from your phone for a set period of time.
That seems to fall in line with the results of this study, which notes that people who are separated from their phones do better in cognitive tasks. You have to assume this will be the case for brain functions that don't necessarily have to do with attention and memory as well.
Of course, for many people's jobs and passions, your phone is an essential tool to get the information you need, so we're by no means suggesting you keep that thing at home while you're at the office.
Instead, perhaps just take this study as a hint that your brain could use a break from it every once in a while, and give your grey matter what it needs.