When students are allowed to use smartphones, laptops or other electronic devices for non-classroom work during lectures they do worse on their final exams, according to a new Rutgers University study.

A surprising finding by the study is that when a student is distracted in class by an electronic device, they also affect the performance of the person sitting next to them.

Psychology professor Arnold Glass says the experiment included 118 Rutgers-New Brunswick cognitive psychology students. Electronic devices were banned during half of the lectures and permitted during the other half.

The study found that having a device lowered their final exam scores by at least five percent or half a grade.

Glass says even though they were not paying attention in class because their attention was divided, they had ample opportunities to learn the material through textbooks, homework assignments and even studying their notes. But they still didn't do well.

"Apparently, paying attention in class is important because the effect over time got larger, not smaller, and they did not make up the difference through subsequent study," says Glass.

He says you do need your laptop or some kind of device to take notes, especially in college. So it's up to the individual professor to restrict all devices to classroom related activities.

The next step in combating this problem is to develop demonstrations for laptops and smartphones than can enhance learning and be an attractive alternative to non-classroom cellphone activities. Glass hopes to have the experiment up and running by next year.

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