What Is Pokémon Go Doing to Your Brain?
Observer | John Bonazzo
There are neurological risks involved with focusing on your phone while walking through public spaces
Pokémon Go was released less than two weeks ago, and has already taken America by storm—eager gamers have taken over parks throughout the country, and Pokémon trainers are advertising their services on Craigslist.
But could chasing after Pikachu be adversely affecting your brain?
Dr. Colin Ellard, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo in Toronto, made waves last week with an article on Quartz in which he outlined the neurological risks involved with searching for Squirtle on your phone while walking through public spaces. He was not able to conduct an official study since the game is so new, but used previous research on the brain to raise alarms for Pokémon Go players.
Ellard’s Urban Realities Laboratory at Waterloo focuses on the psychological and neurological effects of nature and architectural design. His most famous experiment, “Testing, Testing,” which was conducted in association with the urban think tank BMW Guggenheim Lab, actually took place on the streets of New York, Berlin, and Mumbai. Participants walked through each city fitted with brain wave sensors—they were also given smartphones to record their responses to questions given at various stopping points.
“Doing research in laboratory settings is tightly controlled,” Ellard told the Observer. “Putting people in everyday settings is much harder to do, but could be co-opted.”
Evidence has shown that being in a beautiful place activates pleasure centers in the brain similar to food and sex, and the stress hormone cortisol decreases in natural settings. So once Pokémon Go became a sensation, Ellard downloaded the game to see if this science held true for players looking at nature in a less conscious way through a phone.
Don’t want to have stare at your phone to play Pokémon GO? Want to lock your phone and still be able to play Pokémon GO?
Check out PokePal – a new Android App that allows you to play Pokémon GO while your screen is locked and without having to stare at your screen. Simply turn on PokePal and you can carry your phone, or put it in your pocket, and go about your hunt!