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'Info-mania' dents IQ more than marijuana

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The relentless influx of emails, cellphone calls and instant messages received by modern workers can reduce their IQ by more than smoking marijuana, suggests UK research.

Far from boosting productivity, the constant flow of messages and information can seriously reduce a person's ability to focus on tasks, the study of office workers found.

Eighty volunteers were asked to carry out problem solving tasks, firstly in a quiet environment and then while being bombarded with new emails and phone calls. Although they were told not to respond to any messages, researchers found that their attention was significantly disturbed.

Alarmingly, the average IQ was reduced by 10 points - double the amount seen in studies involving cannabis users. But not everyone was affected by to the same extent - men were twice as distracted as women.

"If left unchecked, 'info-mania' will damage a worker's performance by reducing their mental sharpness," says Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at the University of London, UK, who carried out the study, sponsored by Hewlett-Packard. "This is a very real and widespread phenomenon."

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