People are losing the cognitive and social skills they need for a thriving personal and professional life, says organizational psychologist Richard Davis.

“We are at risk of losing this essential capability that I call receptivity,” says Davis, the managing director of Toronto-based leadership consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates. “It’s the ability to have good judgment, to have insight about people, and it’s a major concern.”

Technology, social media and artificial intelligence are to blame, Davis adds: People rely so much on their their phones that they’re increasingly unable to make judgment calls on their own. “It’s a cognitive ability that you need to actually exercise in order to not lose it,” he says.

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Davis uses GPS as an example. People once used physical maps, or memory, to get to where they needed to go. Now, if your phone dies, you might find yourself lost more easily.

“What happens when Waze fails? When you don’t have a cell signal? When we don’t have ChatGPT?” says Davis.

People’s ability to talk to and connect with each other is similarly at risk, he says.

“If your head’s in your phone, you’re meeting people through Tinder profiles or you’re basing your business decisions based purely on a resume and not really seeing or spending time with a person, you’re losing your core human capability to have insight into other people,” says Davis.

‘Get your head up out of your phone’

Being tech-savvy can help you with efficiency, productivity and learning. But constantly relying on your devices won’t make you successful in the long run, Davis says.

Showing an ability to complete tasks, solve problems and meet people on your own will make you go far, he says — some CEOs value those skills in potential employees, and look for them when weighing candidates for promotions.

Try and limit how much you’re reaching for your cell phone, Davis advises. Twenty percent of U.S. adults between ages 18 and 29 are smartphone-dependent, according to January data from the Pew Research Center.

Even a small reduction in phone use can help you make space for “screen-free” activities that strengthen your receptivity and cognition, like exercising and reading books, Amy Blankson, a happiness expert and co-founder of the Digital Wellness Institute, told Make It last month.

Exercise increases blood flow to your brain and reduces stress and anxiety, making it easier to mentally recharge after a long workday, studies show. Similarly, reading can improve long-term brain function and memory.

“Get your head up out of your phone and go take the subway and out to midtown Manhattan and meet people in person,” Davis says. “You will have so much more insight about people, make much better decisions [and] have better insight into others.”

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