Using digital devices may actually benefit you rather than make you become lazy.
According to a recent study conducted by University College London (UCL) Researchers, the use of digital devices such as smartphones may actually benefit individuals’ memory skills rather than making them lazy or forgetful.
The study published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: GeneralExplain that using a digital device can help in storing and retrieving very important information. Thus, their memory is freed to remember other, less important things.
Neuroscientists have previously worried that excessive use of technology may lead to cognitive decline and “digital dementia”.
However, the new study demonstrates that using a digital device as an external memory helps individuals remember not only knowledge that is saved in the device, but it helps them remember information that is not memorized as well.
Researchers have created a memory game that can be played on a touch screen tablet or computer to show this. A total of 158 people between the ages of 18 and 71 participated in the experiment.
Participants were shown up to 12 numbered circles on the screen and had to remember to drag some to the left and some to the right. Determine how many circuits they remembered to pull to the correct side their paycheck at the end of the experiment. One side was assigned a ‘high value’, meaning that remembering to pull a circle to that side was 10 times the value of remembering to pull a circle to the other ‘low value’ side.
Participants performed this task 16 times. They had to use their own memory to remember half of the experiences and were allowed to set reminders on the digital device for the other half.
The results found that participants tended to use digital devices to store high-value circuit details. And when they did, their memory for those circuits improved by 18%. Their memory for low-value circles was also improved by 27%, even in people who had never set any reminders for low-value circles.
However, the results also showed the potential cost of using reminders. When they were taken away, participants remembered the low-value circuits better than the high-value circuits, indicating that they had entrusted the high-value circuits with their devices and then forgot about them.
Senior author Dr Sam Gilbert (UCL Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience) said: “We wanted to explore how storing information in a digital device might affect memory capabilities.
We found that when people were allowed to use an external memory, the device helped them remember the information they saved in it. This wasn’t surprising, but we also found that the device improved people’s memory of unsaved information as well.
“This is because using the device changed the way people used their memory to store information of high importance versus information of low importance. When people had to remember for themselves, they used their memory capacity to remember the most important information. But when they could use the device, they saved information of importance high in the device and used their own memory for less important information instead.
The results show that the external memory tools are working. Far from causing “digital dementia,” using an external memory device can improve our memory for information we never saved. But we need to be careful because we are backing up the most important information. Otherwise, if one of the memory tools fails, we will be left with only less important information in our memory. “
Reference: “Value-Based Orientation of Delayed Intentions to Brain-Based Memory Stores vs. Extrinsic Memory Stores” by Dawa DuPont, Qianming Gu, and Sam J. Gilbert, August 1, 2022, Available here. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
DOI: 10.1037 / xge0001261
The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Danish Independent Research Fund.