Are Smartphones Always Bad for Our Brain? The Positive Effect of Taking a Break with a Smartphone on Creativity

Project: Research

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Smartphones have unequivocally become an indispensable part of people’s lives. Although smartphones benefit people in myriad ways, including connecting people with each other and improving access to information, public concerns and prior empirical findings suggest that smartphones negatively influence cognitive performance. However, is smartphone use always bad for our cognitive functioning and performance? This research challenges this notion. Specifically, this project focuses on a prevalent yet understudied type of smartphone use, namely taking a break with a smartphone, and examines its potential positive impacts on cognitive performance, in particular creativity.This research proposes that taking a break with a smartphone, as compared with a comparable break (e.g., taking a break with a PC), can boost creativity. Recent empirical findings have shown that smartphone use could provide psychological comfort and relieve stress (Melumad & Meyer, 2020; Melumad & Pham, 2020) more than PC use. Building on the recent findings, this project examines the effect of smartphone use and psychological comfort on a subsequent creativity task. This research aims to achieve three main goals. First, this project examines an important yet understudied type of smartphone use behavior: taking a break with a smartphone. Although people frequently use their smartphones for a break throughout the day, no prior research has examined whether, how, and why this behavior can impact people’s subsequent cognitive performance. Second, this research challenges a common view that smartphones have a bad influence on people’s various cognitive functioning. This research shows that a specific, “appropriate” way to use a smartphone can be beneficial, extending the current understanding of the effect of smartphone use.Third, this research provides practical implications for the general public and various organizations striving for creativity. Creativity is not only important for culture and art industries but also critical to individual, organizational, and societal success and the cornerstone of innovation. Many individuals and organizations (schools, companies, and households) try to regulate their smartphone use (e.g., “no phone at work policy”), believing that all smartphone use is detrimental to their cognitive performance. This project aims to help the general public and organizations better manage smartphone use in a healthier, more structured, and intentional way, helping them achieve the most critical skill in modern society: creativity.


Project number9043596
Grant typeGRF
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date1/01/24 → …