Old Man mannequin

I answered the email, but I didn’t inhale

According to a new study commissioned by Hewlett Packard — and conducted by psychologists at King’s College in London — extensive use email and instant messaging can drop your IQ by 10 per cent. In comparison, as the researchers hasten to note, the regular smoking of pot dents your IQ by only 4 per cent. The psychologists argue that the problem emerges when the brain tries — and fails — to multitask, as infoconomy reports:

“The impairment only lasts for as long as the distraction. But you have to ask whether our current obsession with constant communication is causing long-term damage to concentration and mental ability,” said Dr Glenn Wilson, psychologist at the University of London.

Eh. I’d like to know more about this study before I comment on it. Personally, I’m less intrigued by the actual content of any of these studies than in the mere fact that psychologists and pundits are convinced that the world is going to be destroyed by people, y’know, communicating. I’ve always felt the anti-messaging panic carries a faint whiff of Reefer Madness; it’s nice to have a critic finally come clean and explicitly connect those dots.

For a truly excellent discussion of whether email interruptions wreck your brain, go to the posting I did last month on “attention deficit trait” — and read the ensuing conversation in the comment area. The points made there are just superb.

(Thanks to Steve Emrich for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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