Smartphones, tablets and computers can be distracting and addictive — but they also might be making us smarter.
That’s the perhaps surprising conclusion of a new study published in the journal Intelligence. The study found a connection between the use of technology and an increase in cognitive function over time.
As detailed in Quartz, the study looked at the intelligence of people over 50 in England and German in 2006 and then a separate group of people of the same age range in the same countries six years later. Rather than giving them straight IQ tests, the researchers measured the cognition of study participants through several different tasks.
The study found that on average the more recent survey participants scored higher than their counterparts in the earlier group. And the effect was pronounced. On average, the scores of participants in the 2012 study were equal to those of people in the earlier group who were four to eight years younger. So, the intelligence of a 60-year-old participant in 2012 was equivalent to that of a 56- or 52-year-old participant in the 2006 survey.
Scientists have noted a gradual rise in average intelligence since around 1930. Dubbed the Flynn effect, the phenomenon has been attributed to factors such as the improvement and more widespread distribution of nutrition, education and healthcare.
But the researchers behind the latest study believe there’s something else going on with their results. They still saw a significant increase in intelligence from the 2006 cohort to the 2012 one when they controlled for education, health and gender.
They noted that the increase in intelligence has occurred at the same time as technology use by the age group they studied has also gone up and found a correlation between the two factors.
So keep on using your smartphone. It just might help your brain.
File photo: A young woman checks her smartphone before boarding a train home at the end of her work week in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)