Digital technology has become omnipresent. Over the past two decades, we have become more and more dependent on smartphones, tablets, and PC devices. Last year’s epidemic pushed this digital wave to new heights.
Smartphones are a popular communication form worldwide in this century and are likely to remain as such, especially among adolescents. The phone has evolved from basic communicative functions–calls only–to being a computer-replacement device, used for web browsing, games, instant communication on social media platforms, and work-related productivity tools, e.g. word processing. Smartphones undoubtedly keep us connected; however, many individuals are now obsessed with them.
Conventional wisdom says that over-reliance on technology may affect us in a bad way. It may weaken our memory, concentration, and self-control abilities. These are obviously important cognitive abilities. However, this fear may not be based on fact.
Technology changes society
Socrates, the father of philosophy, was deeply worried about the impact of writing technology on society. The oral skill of speech has higher demands on memory function. He was worried that writing will eliminate the need for people to learn and exercise memory.
Plato once quoted Socrates’ famous saying:
When people have mastered the ability to write, forgetfulness will also take root in the depths of the soul; they no longer need to exercise memory, because what they write is enough to remind themselves. As a result, people will no longer rely on the inside, but use external signs to evoke memories.
This passage is very interesting.
It represents an intergenerational discussion among early philosophers about the impact of emerging technologies on the cognitive abilities of future generations. To this day, similar debates still exist. Telephone, radio, and television all have been considered as the “destroyers” of cognitive abilities.
Second interesting reason:
Although Socrates was very worried, modern humans are still able to retrieve information from memory at any time. Technology only reduces the need for certain cognitive functions. But it does not affect our actual execution capabilities.
Apart from the sensational rhetoric of the mass media, there are also scientific discoveries that prove that technology can make cognitive ability worse. However, after careful analysis of these points of view, we will find that there are two important premise assumptions:
1) it is assumed that this influence has a lasting impact on long-term cognitive ability;
2) it is assumed that digital technology has a significant direct and unlimited impact on cognition. However, neither of these two hypotheses has been supported by any practical research.
We can see that all influential conclusions are only temporary, not long-term. For example,In a study on the dependence of humans on external memory forms, when participants were told that certain information would be stored on a computer and accessible at any time, their ability to remember the content of the information would decrease. At the same time, if they learn that if they forget, the content of the information will be impossible to recover, their memory will quickly improve.
The use of technology does show “signs” of memory decline. But if there is no technology to rely on, the subjects can still revamp their memory’s ability at any time. Therefore, it is too sloppy to say that technology will damage human memory.
In addition, the impact of digital technology on cognition may also depend on the enthusiasm of the individual, not just the cognitive process. In fact, cognitive processes often have completely different modes of operation under the background of different motivations of different individuals. Specifically, the more we can find sufficient internal drive in a certain task, the higher the degree of devotion and concentration. If this is the case, then there will be a different interpretation of the experimental data-at least it does not simply mean that the smartphone will destroy continuous attention, working memory, or functional liquid intelligence.
Motivational factors have a considerable influence on the results of the research. After all, participants often think that the tasks they are required to complete are boring or irrelevant. Since we are accustomed to using digital technology to deal with daily affairs such as dealing with messages, replying to e-mails, and enjoying entertainment, the intervention of digital technology may weaken the incentive effect in experimental tasks.
The important thing is that all of this means that digital technology does not damage cognition-if a task is really important or attractive, people’s ability to perform will not be destroyed by smartphones.
Changes in cognition
In order to use digital technology for training, the internal cognitive process pays less attention to information storage and calculation; on the contrary, the cognitive process is used to converting information into a format that can be transferred to digital devices-such as searching for phrases, and then reloading them and explanation. This kind of cognitive transfer is like people gradually learning to record the results of phased thinking on paper, instead of relying on their own heads to memorize them; or to give a more intuitive example, children break their fingers and make simple calculations.
The main difference between the two is that, compared with analog tools, digital technology can help us transfer complex information sets more efficiently without any loss of accuracy. In this way, we can free ourselves from a few specialized functions and use internal cognitive abilities to handle other core tasks. From a cognitive perspective, digital technology actually allows us to achieve greater achievements than ever before.
Therefore, it is not necessary to regard digital technology as the enemy of our internal cognitive process; on the contrary, it is expanding our working capabilities and expanding our cognitive boundaries.
You could also try boosting your memory based on these principles
Tip 1: Make Time for Meditation
Tip 2: Give your brain a workout
Tip 3: Don’t skip the physical exercise
Tip 4: Get your Zs
Tip 5: Make time for friends
Tip 6: Get Your Vitamin D Levels Tested. Levels shouldn’t be low.
Tip 7: Keep stress in check
Tip 8: Have a hearty laugh
Tip 9: Eat a brain-boosting diet
Tip 10: Identify and treat health problems
Tip 11: Drink less Alcohol