Are Smartphones Shrinking People’s Memories?

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In the United States, about 90% of adults own a mobile phone, 64% of which are smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center. Across the world, there are about five billion mobile phone users. In other words, mobile technology has taken over the world — but that may not be as great as you might think.

An “overwhelming” majority of consumers — 90% — “use the Internet as an extension of their brain,” says a new study from Kaspersky Lab.

Researchers surveyed 1,000 Americans between the ages of 16 and 55, and found that nearly half (44%) of the participants admitted that their smartphone “serves as their memory.”

According to the study, 70% of participants could recall their significant other’s phone numbers, 56% could remember their siblings’ numbers, 48.6% remembered a friend’s phone number, 45.4% could remember the phone number of where they work, 34% could recall one of their kids’ numbers, and just 30% knew their neighbors’ numbers.

“Digital amnesia,” as researchers dubbed it, was prevalent across all age groups, and amongst men and women equally. However, 16- to 24-year-olds were the most likely to say their devices were the “only place” they keep essential information.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Internet is making people dumber. First of all, the study does not examine the long-term effects of using the Internet to remember things. Second of all, using the Internet as an external memory might actually help clear the brain of clutter, allowing people to concentrate easier and remember more important things.

Then again, almost one-third (28.9%) of those surveyed “would forget an online fact as soon as they had used it.” In other words, they’d look something up, and immediately forget the answer.

That’s not necessarily bad, considering that Albert Einstein, a guy most would consider to be kind of smart, did once advise people to “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

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