The impact of nomophobia and smartphone presence on fluid intelligence and attention



Nomophobia and even simply the presence of smartphones has an impact on attention and performance, likely through the cognitive mechanism of reduced working memory capacity. When a smartphone, a personally relevant stimulus, is present, working memory capacity is utilized leading to a reduction in the ability to inhibit responses and therefore difficulty with complex attentional tasks. With the increase in smartphone ownership, especially among young adults in developing nations and their proliferation in undergraduate classrooms, it becomes important to understand their cognitive impact in this demographic of users. Therefore, this study evaluated the impact of the presence of undergraduate students’ smartphones on their performance on a non-verbal reasoning task, as well as a series of simple to complex attentional tasks. A total of 154 Pakistani undergraduate students participated in this study. Results demonstrated that the presence or absence of the students’ smartphones did not affect fluid non-verbal intelligence or simple attentional tasks. However, the level of fear of being without their smartphone was correlated with non-verbal fluid intelligence and simple attention. Importantly, when the students’ smartphones were present, they experienced difficulty with a more complex attentional task, regardless of the level of nomophobia. Given the need for fluid reasoning and the complex nature of most material covered within the undergraduate classroom context, this finding indicates a need for education about the detrimental nature of smartphone presence on complex attention, as well as the relationship between nomophobia and fluid reasoning and attention. Implications also include a need for institutional policies clarifying appropriate use of smartphones in the classroom.

smartphones, nomophobia, cognition, educational psychology, fluid intelligence, attention, inhibition
Author biographies

Elizabeth Schwaiger

Department of Psychology, Forman Christian College, Lahore, Pakistan

Elizabeth Schwaiger has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Forman Christian College (a Chartered University) since 2016. She established one of the first Cognitive Psychology Research Labs in Pakistan in 2018. This was one of the first projects of the lab. She teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses, as well as supervises research. This is the corresponding author for the article (

Rameen Tahir

Department of Psychology, Forman Christian College, Lahore, Pakistan

Rameen Tahir has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from FCCU, Lahore, where she also worked as a Research Assistant for three years. She developed a keen interest in research, through which she aims to explore diverse areas that would enhance understanding of complex structures such as human relationships and emotions.


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Additional information

First submission received:
January 25, 2021

Revisions received:
June 14, 2021
November 16, 2021
December 15, 2021

Accepted for publication:
December 16, 2021

Editor in charge:
Alexander Schouten





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