Keep the Texts, Ditch the Alerts: How Your Notifications Throw Your Brain for a Loop

woman texting at work
Getty Images

You’d never text while you’re driving or answer a call in the middle of a heart-to-heart with a friend. But when you hear that alert (or feel the vibration), your brain goes off in a whole new direction — even if you don’t glance at your phone.

Want to learn more? See how Even One Text Alert Can Throw Your Brain for a Serious Loop

Researchers at Florida State University in Tallahassee found that cellphone notifications can take a toll on your attention, prompt irrelevant thoughts and even decrease your performance on simple tasks. In a test, people who received phone alerts made more than three times more mistakes than those whose phones were silent.

Receiving a text can cause mind-wandering, explains Cary Stothart, who led the study. “If you received a notification but are in a situation where you can’t look at it,” he says, “you may start to wonder about its source and content. Who sent it? Is it an emergency?”

Stothart and his team are underway with another study that will look at the impact alerts have on older drivers’ reaction times. But the takeaway from the current findings is clear: When you’re doing something important, like driving, working on machinery or listening to your grandchildren, do your brain a favor: Don’t just put your phone on vibrate. Turn it off. Focus all your brainpower on the task at hand. Those alerts will still be there, waiting for you, when you’re ready.

To learn more, check out these articles on Staying Sharp:

The Upsides of Downtime

Tabless Thursday

Search AARP Blogs
Related Posts
June 04, 2020 05:07 PM
If starting your day without a cup of coffee sounds like torture, you’ve got company. The latest statistics from the National Coffee Association show 90 percent of older coffee drinkers need a morning cup to jump-start their day.
May 12, 2020 05:37 PM
Scientists have been telling us for years how beneficial yoga is for our mental and physical health, but what does yoga actually do to our brain to achieve these benefits?
May 12, 2020 05:34 PM
When the country is stressed out, what do we do? We bake.