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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 21 Sep 2005 5:19 pm
September 16, 2005

Studies show we get progressively more stupid each time we email. Dan Danbom conducts his own tests.

Studies show we get progressively more stupid each time we email. Dan Danbom conducts his own tests.

Research confirms what we have long suspected: emailing makes you dumber. A study by the University of London’s Institute of Psychiatry revealed constant emailing and text messaging reduces mental ability by an average of 10 IQ points. That is more than double the effect of smoking high-potency marijuana and almost equivalent to the IQ loss from watching 15 minutes of Britney Spears.

The problem is people allow email and text messaging to interrupt other tasks. These disruptions cost companies millions of pounds in lost productivity each year by taking employees away from important ruptions. Take me as an example. Between writing ’the problem’ and ’ruptions’ in the paragraph above, I answered five text messages and sent six. I checked my email three times, reading 12 messages, ignoring six and composing eight. The time it took to complete that paragraph? Six days.

Compulsive texting This compulsive need to check email to the exclusion of other, more important tasks will damage a worker’s performance by reducing mental sharpness, said the report. So serious is the loss of brain function the phenomenon has its own name: infomania. Harmful by itself, infomania can become even more dangerous when crossed with another mania.

For example, if you have infomania and dipsomania, you can get seriously drunk from reading your own email. Over 62 per cent of workers are addicted to checking messages during ’out of office’ hours and while on vacation. One-third of adults will respond to an email within 10 minutes. One in five is ’happy’ to interrupt a business or social interaction to respond to an email or text message, researchers reported with grave concern.

How serious is the loss of 10 points of IQ? In the interest of science, I did an experiment. First I smoked a large amount of marijuana, then attempted to look up 10 unfamiliar words in the dictionary and remember their meanings. The experiment proved inconclusive because I made the laboratory error of accidentally setting my trousers on fire.

I then attempted to carry on an intelligent conversation with a friend while I was responding to email messages. Sadly, that was inconclusive as well, because my friend was brought up not to talk to people who are not wearing trousers. You may wish to try this experiment yourself.

Email embarrassment
However, there is no doubt that email can certainly make you look stupid. What would prosecutors do without the rich trove of culpability that email trails provide in fraud cases?

Or have you ever sent out an email to someone important, only to realise later you had made some embarrassing spelling or grammatical error in it - simply because you were attempting to replicate my marijuana experiment? Or have you ever been intemperate in your remarks about someone and then accidentally included that person in the list of your recipients? You will wish you felt only 10 points dumber when the unintended recipient comes to your office and pummels you senseless.

While email dumbness is a widespread phenomenon, it is less so among women who show just a five-point decline in IQ when distracted by email or text messages, compared to the 15-point decline in men. This suggests women are better at multi-tasking than men. As to what ’multi-tasking’ means I am afraid I cannot enlighten you, it being one of those words I had intended to look up.

Intelligence diminution is clearly an area business needs to address. One suggestion is businesses establish ’email-free hours’, during which no email may be sent or read without the supervision of a woman.

Another is to discourage the sending of text messages from pagers by requiring employees to wear keyboard-unfriendly oven gloves in important meetings. Alternatively you can discourage people from putting things in writing and - I know what you are thinking - I would be a good place to start.

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Postby briceloh » Wed, 21 Sep 2005 5:26 pm true... :wink:

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