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Do phones affect attention?

07.12.2005


Seeking to bring clarity to the debate on mobile phone use, researchers from the University of Essex have published the results of an investigation into the effects of mobiles on attention.



Arising from recent concerns over the physical effects of mobile phone use, the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme awarded an Essex team funding to investigate if radio frequency electromagnetic fields emitted by phones have a significant effect on attention performance. The multidisciplinary team, led by Professor Riccardo Russo of the Department of Psychology, draws on expertise in experimental psychology and electronic engineering.

Whilst some limited research has been conducted in the area of attention, these studies tested few people (usually less than 20 per group) so that no firm conclusions could be drawn. However, the Essex team claim their study is the first to test numbers sufficient to draw relatively firm conclusions about the impact of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields on human cognition.


A total of 168 participants were tested in a series of attentional tasks, such as vigilance, over two sessions. In one session they were exposed to the electromagnetic field emitted by mobile phones transmitting at about 900MHZ, in a second session they were not. The study’s findings, to be published in the New Year in Bioelectromagnetics, conclude that the radio frequencies emitted by mobile phones do not statistically affect ability in the performance tasks.

With the office of National Statistics reporting that over 75 per cent of adults in the UK own or have used a mobile, and with the increasingly pervasive growth of mobile technology in general, this contribution to the debate over the effects of these devices is both timely and specific.

Kate Clayton | alfa
Further information:
http://www.essex.ac.uk

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