We live in an age where we have almost limitless access to information. But how are our brains coping with the influx of data that they’re being subjected to?
Well according to experiments carried out by Dr. Betsy Sparrow, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia, our brains are getting less self-reliant when it comes to storing information.
Dr. Sparrow and her team asked volunteers to take part in a series of different memory tests. In the first, participants read 40 pieces of trivia from a computer screen. Half of the subjects believed that the information would be saved, the other half believed it would be lost.
The authors found that people were significantly more likely to remember the information if they didn’t think it had been saved, claiming they “did not make the effort to remember when they thought they could later look up the trivia statement they had read”.
Another test involved the study of “transactive memory”, the process whereby we organise information in external systems whether they be computers, reference books, or even other people. Participants were asked to remember a piece of information, and also which one of five computer folders it had been stored in.
The researchers found that participants were much better at remembering the location of the information than they were at remembering the information itself. As Dr Sparrow explains:
“I love watching baseball, but I know my husband knows baseball facts, so when I want to know something I ask him, and I don’t bother to remember it.”
As the demands on our memories become less and less with devices like mobile phones remembering our friends’ contact details and address and even appointments, it’s easier for our brains to rely on external sources of for data storage, potentially leaving them out of practice at remembering information. As Betsy says:
“The Internet’s effects on memory are still largely unexplored. Human memory is adapting to new communications technology.”
Source : NY Times