An over-reliance on mobile devices and the internet has led to us using our brains
far less than our ancestors, which greatly impacts our ability to create and store
long-term memories, psychology experts and a security firm are warning.
Think about how many phone numbers you know today, and how many you
used to know 15 years ago. If you grew up before mobile phones became mainstream,
you probably knew your home phone number, those of a few of your closest friends, and
probably the number to reach a family member at work.
You could probably also recite your home address off by heart, and you might still
remember the address of your childhood home. But what about nowadays? Security
firm Kaspersky Lab says too many people are handing over important information
such as this over to their devices to remember instead.
36% of consumers use the internet rather than figure out the answer themselves
six European countries and found 47% of all users cannot recall their home phone
number from their childhood, 49% cannot recall their partner's phone number, 57%
cannot remember their work number, and 71% cannot remember
their children's phone numbers.
Even worse, when posed a question, 36% of all respondents preferred to
immediately check the internet for the answer rather than try to come up with it
by themselves; this figure rose to 40% among users aged 45 and over.
But once they had looked up the answer on the internet, 24% of all respondents admitted
they would instantly forget the answer, and 12% assumed the information would always
be available somewhere for them to access in the future.
Kaspersky referred the results of its research to experts from UCL Institute of
Cognitive Neuroscience and the University of Birmingham. The psychologists confirmed
that not bothering to memorise facts and information can be detrimental to
our brains, which they called "Digital Amnesia".
"Our brain appears to strengthen a memory each time we recall it, and at the
same time forget irrelevant memories that are distracting us. Past research has
repeatedly demonstrated that actively recalling information is a very efficient way
to create a permanent memory," said Dr Maria Wimber, a lecturer from
University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
"In contrast, passively repeating information [by repeatedly looking it up on the internet,
for example] does not create a solid, lasting memory trace in the same way.
Based on this research, it can be argued that the trend to look up information
before even trying to recall it prevents the build-up of long-term memories."
How much will losing your device affect you?