This is the abstract from a report which was recently published in Social Psychology:
Research consistently demonstrates the active use of cell phones, whether talking or texting, to be distracting and contributes to diminished performance when multitasking (e.g., distracted driving or walking). Recent research also has indicated that simply the presence of a cell phone and what it might represent (i.e., social connections, broader social network, etc.) can be similarly distracting and have negative consequences in a social interaction. Results of two studies reported here provide further evidence that the ‘‘mere presence’’ of a cell phone may be sufficiently distracting to produce diminished attention and deficits in task-performance, especially for tasks with greater attentional and cognitive demands. The implications for such an unintended negative consequence may be quite wide-ranging (e.g., productivity in school and the work place).
Just the “mere presence” of the phone may be enough for you to be distracted from that really important task that you are doing – like driving, or reviewing that multi-million pound deal, or researching a cure for cancer, or learning how to be the next great coder, or caring for your friends and family.
I’m sitting here with two mobile phones on my desk so this morning I’m going to try an experiment. The phones are going in a drawer and I’ll see whether I feel any less distracted than I normally do, hopefully this is enough to remove them from “mere presence”. Perhaps this will become a new way of working. I’m still going to allow audio distractions from someone ringing me because that’s part of the important job, but I’m going to see if I can focus a bit more by removing this needless distraction.