Gordon Pennycook

PhD candidate | Cognitive Psychology

New research from the University of Waterloo indicates there’s an association between heavy smartphone use and lower intelligence. The research suggests smartphone users who are intuitive thinkers frequently use their device’s search engine rather than their own brainpower.

Gordon Pennycook

“They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it,” said Gordon, co-lead author of the study, and a PhD Psychology candidate.

“Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence. Whether smartphones actually decrease intelligence is still an open question that requires future research.”

Gordon’s own research is focused on reasoning and decision-making, examining factors that influence when and how a person will overcome an intuitive or gut response. He explains, “Some people are more willing to question feelings and gut instincts. Some are more analytical and rational. What other differences do those people display?”

He looks at the consequences of thinking analytically, specifically how that way of thinking may influence moral and religious beliefs.

“Nathaniel Barr [co-lead author of the study] originally came up with the idea for the smartphone study because he didn’t have one. Ultimately we ran it because the topic is intrinsically interesting. Everybody has a smartphone.”

“Working with the media was fun but taxing. We had to temper people’s interpretations and be sure that our research was represented in an accurate manner. Because it is new research, it was difficult at times because we didn’t always have definitive answers.”

Gordon and Nathaniel are hoping to run additional studies on creativity in relation to smartphone usage. “There must be more cognitive relations with smartphones.”