NOV 10, 2015 4:56 AM PST

Is Technology Stealing Our Brain Power?

 
Can you pass this memory test? Without looking at your cell phone write down the phone numbers of your two closest friends or family members.  Did you get them right? A study done by Kapersky Labs suggests that many people could not recall this most basic information.  Why? Most of us keep this kind of information on a smartphone. To call a friend or send a text we merely need to find that person’s picture or name in the phone and push a button. Perhaps not even that much effort is required. With an iPhone you can simply tell Siri, “Call Mom” and the phone does all the work.
 
Are we handing our brains over to smartphones?

For the study, which was included in a report called “The Rise and Impact of Digital Amnesia” Kaspersky Labs surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 16 and older across the country and asked them how and where their important information like phone numbers, email addresses and photos were stored.  44% of people responded that they keep almost all of their contacts and other vital information on their digital devices.  The resulting inability to remember phone numbers and other personal information is now known as digital amnesia and apparently, it’s widespread. 
 
The concept is similar to what’s come to be known as the “Google Effect.” In a 2011 study done at Columbia University, researchers discovered that when participants were asked to do a simple Internet search to find the answer to a relatively easy question, they were not likely to remember the information, but were very likely to remember where it was found.  If the information was more difficult to find and the search was more involved, the opposite was true. They would remember the information they had searched for, but were not likely to remember where they found it. 
 
The Google Effect study was groundbreaking in 2011, but subsequent studies have found similar results. Rather than using the brain as the main storage for learned material, memories and information, that task is now delegated to a digital device and the brain drain shows. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information the average attention span is now 8.25 seconds. In 2000 it was 12 seconds. For comparison, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds.
 
The Kapersky study also showed that over half of the survey participants said they would be “overwhelmed” with sadness if they lost the information and photos they keep on their phones. In a press release about the study, Kapersky Labs quoted Dr. Kathryn Mills at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in London who said, The act of forgetting is not inherently a bad thing. We are beautifully adaptive creatures and we don’t remember everything because it is not to our advantage to do so. Forgetting becomes unhelpful when it involves losing information that we need to remember. One of the reasons consumers might be less worried about remembering information is because they have connected devices that they trust. In many societies, having access to the Internet feels as stable as having access to electricity or running water.”   In other words, we don’t bother to remember information because there’s usually an app for that.
 
Take a look at the video below to learn more about this new form of forgetfulness.
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
JUL 21, 2021
Technology
Digital App Helps People Make Positive Eating-Habit Changes
JUL 21, 2021
Digital App Helps People Make Positive Eating-Habit Changes
We all have moments where the only thing that can comfort us is food, and a lot of it. However, such behavior can very q ...
JUL 22, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Enhancing Myelin to Treat Alzheimer's Disease
JUL 22, 2021
Enhancing Myelin to Treat Alzheimer's Disease
Brain cells, or neurons, communicate through electrochemical signals. The electrical signals travel down a neuron’ ...
JUL 27, 2021
Technology
First Prescription Digital Therapeutic Expands Access to Mental Health Care
JUL 27, 2021
First Prescription Digital Therapeutic Expands Access to Mental Health Care
Treatment for disorders like depression and anxiety usually requires regular visits to a psychiatrist or, at the very le ...
JUL 27, 2021
Neuroscience
Proportion of Neurotransmitters in the Brain Predict Math Ability
JUL 27, 2021
Proportion of Neurotransmitters in the Brain Predict Math Ability
According to researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK, the proportion of two common neurotransmitters in the br ...
AUG 24, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
A comparison of drugs for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
AUG 24, 2021
A comparison of drugs for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
     Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a rare and unpredictable autoimmune disease in which the body’s inn ...
SEP 15, 2021
Neuroscience
Motor Cortex Involved in Vocabulary Learning
SEP 15, 2021
Motor Cortex Involved in Vocabulary Learning
The motor cortex, the part of the brain involved in the planning, control, and execution of voluntary movements, may pla ...
Loading Comments...