Internet Use Affects Memory!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has an article reporting on a study that concludes Internet use affects one’s memory.  Citing research by three professors at Columbia, Harvard and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the study examined whether people were more likely to remember information that could be easily retrieved from a computer.  They conducted several memory experiments such as the following.

“ participants typed 40 bits of trivia — for example, ‘an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain’ — into a computer. Half of the subjects believed the information would be saved in the computer; the other half believed the items they typed would be erased.

[The result was] The subjects were significantly more likely to remember information if they thought they would not be able to find it later. ‘Participants did not make the effort to remember when they thought they could later look up the trivia statement they had read,’ the authors write.”

The authors concluded that while the Internet’s affects on memory are largely unexplored, their study seems to indicate that a relationship exists.

The actual study is available at Science Magazine but requires a subscription.


One comment

  1. This is something I have been suspecting for a while. Memory is something you train right? So if you continuously process information without the “need ” to store it, then the memory function gets unused and lax. This is similar to wine and alcoholic beverage consumption. The alcohol lowers the awareness level and a lot of the incoming information is never processed and stored, it just drifts through. TV also has similar characteristics. Scary stuff.