A new study headed by UCL academics demonstrates that the use of digital devices, such as smartphones, may help increase memory skills as opposed to leading people to become sluggish or forgetful.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that digital tools help in storing and recalling extremely vital information. This frees up their mind to memorize additional, less significant information.
Scientists in the field of neuroscience have previously raised worry that excessive use of technology could impair cognitive function and lead to “digital dementia.”
The results, however, demonstrate that using a digital device as an external memory helps people remember data both saved and not saved in the device as well.
To show this, the team developed a memory game that can be played on a computer or digital tablet with a touchscreen. 158 people, ranging in age from 18 to 71, participated in the experiment.
Up to 12 numbered circles were displayed to participants, and they had to remember to move some of these circles to the left and some of these circles to the right. At the end of the experiment, their remuneration was based on how many circles they remembered to pull to the right side. One side was marked as “high value,” which meant that recalling to drag a circle to it was worth ten times as much as recalling to drag it to the other side, which was marked as “low value.”
Participants carried out this exercise sixteen times. On half of the trials, participants were required to rely solely on recollection, whereas on the other half, they were permitted to set digital gadget reminders.
According to the findings, participants frequently used their digital devices to store information about the high-value circles. And after doing so, their recollection for those circles was 18% better. Even in those who had never previously set any reminders for low-value circles, their memory for those circles was enhanced by 27%.
However, the findings revealed a possible cost to employing reminders. The participants remembered the low-value circles more vividly after they were removed than the high-value ones, indicating that they had given their devices control of the high-value circles and then forgotten about them.
“We wanted to explore how storing information in a digital device could influence memory abilities,” explained Dr. Sam Gilbert, senior author from the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.
“We found that when people were allowed to use an external memory, the device helped them to remember the information they had saved into it. This was hardly surprising, but we also found that the device improved people’s memory for unsaved information as well.
This was due to the fact that utilizing the gadget changed how people used their memory to store important knowledge vs unimportant information. People used their memory ability to retain the most crucial information when they had to recall something on their own. However, when they had access to the device, they stored critical information there while keeping less critical information in their own memory.
The results demonstrate the efficacy of external memory tools. Utilizing an external memory device won’t lead to “digital dementia” and may even help us remember details we never recorded. However, we must take care to support the most crucial facts. Otherwise, if a memory aid malfunctions, we can be left with nothing but less significant data in our own memory.
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