When was the last time you opened your laptop midconversation or brought your desktop computer to the dinner table? Ridiculous, right? But if you are like a large number of Americans, you have done both with your smartphone.
Less than a decade after the introduction of the first iPhone, more people reach for their smartphones first thing in the morning than reach for coffee, a toothbrush or even the partner lying next to them in bed. During the day, with a smartphone in our pocket, we can check our email while spending time with our children just as easily as we can text a friend while at work. And regardless of what we are doing, many of us are bombarded by notifications of new messages, social media posts, breaking news, app updates and more.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this pervasiveness of smartphones is making us increasingly distracted and hyperactive. These presumed symptoms of constant digital stimulation also happen to characterize a well-known neurodevelopmental disorder: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Could the pinging and dinging of our smartphones be afflicting even those of us not suffering from ADHD with some of that condition’s symptoms? As a behavioral scientist, I set out to test this idea in a well-controlled experiment.
Studying digital interruption