It seems impossible to live a day without our smartphones. We  wake up using alarms that were set on our phones, making it the first thing we look at when we open our eyes each day. Then we start deleting emails, checking texts, and Instagraming our outfits. And throughout the day we are constantly checking out social media apps, listening to music and playing addictive games.

So it's no surprise that using that iPhone 6 can be really distracting. When procrastinating for finals or getting that work assignment in on time, it only seems natural that we reach for our phones.

A study released last year by app maker Locket found that people unlock their phones at least 110 times each day, or just about 10 times every hour. That means that our phones are distracting us when we're eating, working, commuting, and even when we are having sex.

But what's more shocking is that even when we aren't looking at our iPhones, they are still distracting us.

Researchers from Southern Maine University discovered that even when we aren't using them, being in the presence of your phone is enough to steal your attention away from more important tasks.

"Even when you're not using it, it's a reminder of what's out there," says study co-author Bill Thornton. "And you're not out there and you're not on it, so it becomes distracting in that sense."

The researchers conducted two attention experiments during statistics classes at the university. In the first experiment, students were asked to keep their phones on their desks while they were asked to complete tasks. The students were told one of the tasks would ask about the type of phone they currently use. In the second experiment, students from a different statistics class were told the same information, but were told to keep their phones away from sight.

Both experiments included simple and complicated tasks. When it came to the simple tasks, both classes scored similarly. However, when it came down to complicated tasks, the class who kept their phones away were better at the tasks. This group on average got 26 answers correct, proving they paid attention more than the students who had their phones visible. They only got a class average score of 21 correct answers.

"When the task requires more attention and more executive functioning, then a slight distraction starts to cause a deficit," says Thornton.

The researchers believe that phones are distracting, even when they are just there, because of what they represent. By simply looking at a phone, we see a device for communication, social networks and access to unlimited entertainment.

The findings further prove the distraction power of our phones. And while being away from our iPhones may cause some anxiety, try to put them out of sight so they are out of mind when you are under a deadline. 

[Photo Credit: Yeray Hdez Guerra/Flickr]

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