Interference between conversation and a concurrent visuomotor task

Anticipation of a cellphone call did not
slow responses, but it did induce more errors
compared to the absence of anticipation.
Cellphone dependency did not seem to have an
effect on either response times or error rates.
This is the first empirical evidence of cognitive
deficits being caused by the mere anticipation of a
phone call, without actually requiring the
participant to use the phone while performing a
task. Although the results of the experiment
revealed cellphone anticipation did not appear to
affect the speed of participants’ working memory,
it did affect accuracy. This implies that even when
people are not actively using their cellphones, the
mere anticipation of a call can impair the
accuracy of cognitive tasks. Also, the fact that
accuracy was impaired, while speed was not, has
serious implications on its own. Even if
anticipating a phone call does not slow mental
functioning, anticipation does cause more
mistakes, which might mask the effect of
anticipation. That is, when anticipating a phone
call, people perform mental activities just as
quickly as when not anticipating a phone call so
they may fail to notice any effect of anticipation;
while in fact, the anticipation may be causing
more errors. This could explain why students
bring their phones to class without expecting
they may interfere with their concentration.


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