Contrary to popular belief, using digital devices like smartphones could help improve memory skills, according to a new study.
Popular belief dictates that smartphones often end up making people lazy thinkers since people tend to use their devices as a way to avoid thinking about things that are not vitally important.
But a new research published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General said otherwise, suggesting that digital devices help people store and remember important information. In turn, this helps free up memory to help recall less important things.
This contradicts what neuroscientists previously said concerning the overuse of technology resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities, leading to what’s called as “digital dementia.”
To demonstrate their findings, the researchers developed a memory task to be played on a computer or touchscreen digital tablet. About 158 volunteers aged between 18 and 71 took the test.
The participants were shown up to 12 numbered circles on the screen and tasked to remember and drag some to the left or to the right. The number of circles they placed into the correct side determined their pay once the experiment ended. One of the side was designated “high value,” which meant remembering to drag a circle to that side was worth so much more than dragging one to the other side, designated “low value.”
For half of the trials, the participants were asked to remember by memory alone, while the remaining half allowed them to make reminders on digital devices.
After the participants performed the task 16 times, the results found that participants stored high-value circles on the digital devices and their memories improved by 18%. Meanwhile, their memory for low-value circles improved by 27%.
When the digital devices were taken away, the participants remembered the low-value circles better than the high-value ones.
“This was because using the device shifted the way that people used their memory to store high-importance versus low-importance information,” said Senior author Dr. Sam Gilbert, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.
“The results show that external memory tools work. Far from causing ‘digital dementia,’ using an external memory device can even improve our memory for information that we never saved.”