Posted by: kurtsh | January 22, 2006

STUDY: Email can diminish an individual’s IQ

I find it really weird that more people didn’t really take to this story when it was first written about so I’m going to continue to write about it until someone takes notice.
The bottom line is that I STRONGLY believe that companies and employees themselves really need to be concerned about this syndrome.  The symptoms of ‘infomania’ include a loss of short term memory, a lack of concentration ona single task and the tendency to drift to some other thought context, and the inability to remember simple lists of ‘to-do’ items.  The implications of this problem for an employee are obvious however, the aggregate loss to a company is potentially devastating. 
The bottom line is that I believe according to this study, constant interruption during the workday by email, instant messaging, fellow employees, Internet popups, and other ‘context switches for the mind’ are a very bad thing to our brains when sustained over time.  People need to protect themselves and here are a few ways that I think you can do this:
– Set email checking to broader time intervals.  You DON’T need to have email delivered to you immediately.  Make it every 15 – 30 minutes.  Being interrupted by email arrival through both audible and visual signals on the screen are also bad – disable these interruptions.
– Set instant messaging visual signals to notify you only when someone directly needs to contact you, and set your ‘state’ to be BUSY so that only the most urgent of interruptions are made.  There is no need for your train of thought to be interrupted by your instant messaging application just to let you know that "Jane Doe" is now online.  Disable these notifications.
– Install a managable pop-up blocker.  While I do work for Microsoft, I strongly encourage the MSN Search Toolbar because it’s popup blocking capabilities are unmatched.  While Google’s toolbar may provide a similar function, only MSN’s toolbar is managable and can provide ‘white lists’ to enable appropriate web sites to provide pop ups.  This is managable using Group Policy through .ADM files that we provide.
Abuse of Technology Can Reduce Worker’s Intelligence
Earlier this year, around April, Hewlett Packard released the results of a study that was conducted by the University of London:  Excessive use of technology such as email and text messages can cause a fall in IQ greater than that caused by smoking marijuana.

The study of more than 1000 adults was commisioned by HP and conducted at the University of London’s Institute of Psychiatry.

The research showed that the average reduction of 10 IQ points as participants’ work was interrupted by emails and text messages is more than double the four-point loss caused by smoking marijuana.

A third of all adults will respond to an email immediately or within 10 minutes, the study showed. But women are more effective at multitasking: Their drop in IQ was only five points, compared to 15 for men.


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