Reading on your smartphone lowers reading comprehension, study finds

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

Do you feel like you are constantly on your phone? Do you also feel like you never can remember anything you’ve read? If so, these two variables may be connected. A recent study published in Scientific Reports suggests that reading documents, books, and other texts on your phone may actually be leading to poor comprehension skills.

Negative Effects of Smartphones

Smartphones have changed the way our society interacts with each other. People have gone from only having a landline with an answering machine to carrying a personal phone with them 24/7.

Although convenient, constantly looking at your smartphone can lead to eye strain, headaches, and may even lead to poor comprehension.


Scientists behind this new study split their subjects into two groups. One group read texts off of a smartphone, and the second group read texts off of an actual piece of paper.

After reading, the two groups took a comprehension test to determine what they had and hadn’t learned. Plus, each participant was also hooked up to a functional near-infrared spectroscopy headband to measure the activity of their prefrontal cortex.

Findings of this radical study showed that students who read on paper had much better comprehension than those that read on their smartphones. This result has been consistent with previous studies that compared similar variables.

Interestingly, the study also revealed increased prefrontal cortex activity while students were reading on a smartphone versus reading on actual paper. This may suggest that reading from a smartphone is associated with an increase in cognitive load.

Deep Breathing as a Way to Increase Comprehension

So how can you increase your comprehension if you spend a lot of time on your smartphone? One great way to do this, is to breathe.

Sighing, or breathing deeply, has long been known to have a positive effect on cognitive function. A single sigh is defined as a breath that is twice as deep as an average breath during a normal respiratory cycle. By sighing, you can increase the oxygenation in your blood and promote improved blood flow to your vital organs, including your brain.


While completing this study, researchers actually found previous studies that looked at the impact of increased sighing and cognitive tasks. They found that sighing can increased a person’s cognition and lead to better comprehension.

So the next time you are trying to read something important for work or school on your smartphone, take a few deep breaths. Incorporating breath work into your reading routine, may lead to improved cognition and improved comprehension.