Your Smartphone Might Be Wrecking Your Memory

Photographed by Kate Anglestein.
Where would we be without our smartphones? Perpetually late as we navigate our way around town with an Ordnance Survey map? Probably. Constantly forgetting about those drinks dates with friends we arranged six weeks ago? Almost certainly. However, without our smartphones we may also have better memories, according to new research. Regularly using Google search, Wikipedia and other technologies, such as sat-navs and digital cameras, has affected our ability to recall facts because they allow us to offload "to-be-remembered" information, The Telegraph reported. Admittedly, without iOS notes, many of us would struggle in the supermarket trying to remember what to buy for dinner. This process, known as "cognitive offloading", involves relying on tools like the internet to help us remember things. In the research, published in the Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal, Professor Evan Risko, of the University of Waterloo, and Dr Sam Gilbert, from University College London reviewed existing studies to find out how the process is affecting our memories. In one piece of research, sat-navs were shown to negatively affect how much of their journey drivers remember, and their ability to repeat a route without the device. Digital cameras were also found to reduce museum-goers' ability to recall details about exhibits. However, the results of other studies highlighted the benefits of smartphones on our brains. They were found to free up mental resources by allowing us to outsource unnecessary tasks. This gives us more space for creative thinking and other useful tasks. Dr Gilbert said: “Remembering your shopping list or an appointment is not the most effective use of your cognitive resources, and if you can be reminded of that task it frees up more space which can be used for any number of things,” The Times reported. Oh. With all that excess "creative thinking" space, there's no excuse not to finally start painting or writing that novel, then.

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