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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/The Toll of Technology

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth's Katie Zemtseff reports that incoming calls and emails could stunt IQ even more than marijuana use.


GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman. And coming up—talking coral. But first, this Note on Emerging Science from Katie Zemtseff.

ZEMTSEFF: Although marijuana is known to stunt memory retention, new research shows there's something that's more addictive and a bigger threat to our productivity: technology.

In a study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and conducted in Great Britain, researchers studied the IQ performance of 80 volunteer workers. Each worker was given a problem-solving task to complete, both in a quiet environment and in one in which they were bombarded with phone and e-mail messages.

Turns out, the subjects were so distracted by the incoming messages that their average IQ dropped ten points. This ten-point loss is equivalent to missing a night's sleep and is more than double the four-point fall experienced after smoking pot.

The study also polled 1,100 British employees and found many were addicted to their communication technology. Sixty-two percent of workers respond to e-mail within 60 minutes of receiving one and three out of ten believed answering electronic messages during meetings was okay. Interestingly, 89 percent of those polled say colleagues who answer messages during meetings annoy them. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Katie Zemtseff.



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