Monday, April 25, 2005

Reading Emails Lower Your IQ?

Dr. Glenn Wilson of Kings College, London, has found that adult workers who compulsively check their email are more likely to be distractible and sleep-deprived, and drop their IQ by 10 points. 62% of people checked work-related email at home or when they were on holiday ( that supposed to be bad?). The group concluded that although technology can help productivity, workers needed to learn to turn off computer and phones.

The main problem with this soundbyte research result is that no paper is available to review (at least that we've been able to find- let us know if you find anything). It looks like it's from a study was commissioned by Hewlett Packard and Dr. Wilson's webpage describes his area as 'psychology and work productivity.' Is this result supposed to be a reason a corporation will develop a policy of reducing access to email? To be fair, we noticed some work productivity gurus have posted organizational tips that include turning off your email arrival beep, so some people have already noticed its distracting influence.

But we would like to see the data. Were two IQ tests done over a short span of time? (that's a no-no) Did individual workers' IQs actually drop? or were comparison groups just different by 10 points (nominal)? Who did they look at anyway? Office workers? computer programmers? Middle managers? Top Execs? Probably there wasn't any way to blind the study. It also sounded a little dubious that the study suggested email was worse than marijuana use. Maybe marijuana users didn't feel inclined to confess their use to administrators of an employer-funded research study?

Don't put your mail on vacation hold yet!

Guardian Unlimited | Online | Emails 'pose threat to IQ'
Why texting harms your IQ - Personal Tech - Times Online
Organization Tips (including how to ignore constantly checking your email)


  1. Anonymous10:02 PM

    I wonder how the study's author controlled for people who were in a situation where compulsive email checking was required - an extremely tight deadline approaching, easily irritated boss, mandatory short turnaround times, etc. People who live in extremely stressful situations may very well have outside conditions which will also cause them to lose sleep and not lose focus on IQ tests.

  2. Very good points. The research is really just a 'sound byte', but it's worthwhile thinking about how email affects thinking and productivity.