London: It`s always better to keep your cell phone on silent mode particularly when you are trying to solve a problem, for a study says that mobile ringtones can distract you -- especially if it`s your favourite song.
Researchers at Washington University in St Louis have claimed that mobile phone ringtones affect concentration most when they are popular songs --in fact, they can brain power, the `Daily Mail` reported.
"Many of us consider a mobile phone ringing in a public place to be an annoying disruption, but this study confirms that these nuisance noises also have real-life impacts," lead author Jill Shelton said.
She added: "These seemingly innocuous events are not only a distraction, but they have a real influence on learning."
For their study, the researchers devised an experiment in which Shelton posed as a student seated in the middle of a crowded undergraduate psychology lecture at Louisiana State University and allowed a mobile phone in her handbag to continue ringing loudly for about 30 seconds.
Students exposed to a briefly ringing cell phone scored 25 percent worse on a test of material presented before the distraction, the findings revealed.
Students tested later scored about 25 per cent worse for recall of course content presented during the distraction, even though the same information was covered by the Professor just prior to the phone ring and projected as text in a slide show shown throughout the distraction.
The students scored even worse when Shelton added to the disturbance by frantically searching her handbag as if attempting to find and silence her device.
Perhaps most surprising, the study found that unexpected exposure to snippets of a popular song, such as those often used as ringtones, can have an even-longer-lasting negative impact on attention.
In this phase of the experiment, students in a laboratory were tested on simple word-recognition tasks while exposed to a range of auditory distractions, including irrelevant tones, standard mobile phone rings and parts of a song very familiar to most LSU students.
The song, an instrumental version of the LSU fight song composed to support the university`s American Football team, was then being played incessantly. The song also became a popular mobile phone ringtone.
"When we played the fight song as part of our lab experiments, the distraction factor lasted longer. It slowed down their decision-making performance for a longer time than even a standard ringtone.
"Depending on how familiar people are with these songs, it could lead to an even worse impairment in their cognitive performance," said Shelton whose study has been published in the `Journal of Environmental Psychology`.