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Your Smartphone Is Bad For Your Brain

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Own a mobile phone? 

Then there's a good chance your concentration is going to burn out in another paragraph, so we'll keep this nice and simple. 

Smartphones are seriously messing up your ability to remember stuff and ruining your concentration.

Still here? Good. 

An online survey of 6,000 people from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Benelux by Kaspersky Labs has discovered a new trend that they're dubbing 'Digital Amnesia' - that found that if we're allowed to use a digital device to remember something for us, or have a service like Google provide us with instant answers, we are more likely to "forget" this information ourselves, even to the extent of failing to store information we immediately look up.

Over half of the study's participants couldn't call their children's phones without first looking up the number, with 90 per cent unable to recall their child's school phone number. Fifty one per cent couldn't remember their office phone number. 

A whopping 79.5 per cent of the survey respondents agreed that they use the internet as "an extension of their brain", with 61 per cent believing it unnecessary to remember facts they had discovered online as it would "always be there".

The study also looked at the emotional response that the participants had to losing their digital device or internet connection, with 38.1 per cent of participants stating that they would be "saddened" by losing a device due to loss of irreplaceable memories such as messages, photos and contact numbers.

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The survey findings support the work of one Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: How The Internet Is Changing Our Brains - who believes that the 'Google effect' of finding information online easily is eroding our memory skills, in addition to reducing our ability to concentrate.

"If you’re constantly distracted and taking in new information, you’re essentially pushing information into and out of your conscious mind. You’re not attending to it in a way that is necessary for the rich consolidation of memory."

Sure - your smartphone is always going to be better at remembering phone numbers than you are, and shifting useless information like strings of numbers leaves more room for relevant facts. But as we start relying on it to give us a greater number of answers and memory cues, our ability to recall information will decline. 

"Forgetting becomes unhelpful when it involves losing information that we need to remember," explains Dr Kathryn Mills of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who reviewed the research. "The act of memorisation is a skill, and its importance as one of the tools in our cognitive toolkit is dependent on how relevant memorisation is for us to effectively navigate our world. In other words: being able to memorise is an important skill to have only if we need it."

So forgetting is okay, so long as we're not relying entirely on the internet and gadgets. Here's hoping we remember that tomorrow.  

(Image: Shutterstock)

[Via: Kaspersky lab]


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