Is the Media Ruining our Memory?

It seems that in the digital age stimuli from every direction barrage our brains. There is advertising, television, radio, and of course the internet. The media has become so ubiquitous that now ‘multitasking’ is a common word. However, the question must be asked as to whether or not all of these stimuli are actually ruining our memory. Maybe all of this input is causing sensory overload, which leads to people not being able to remember or to even focus as well as we once did.

Multiple Media Users Actually Poor Multitaskers:

The University of Wyoming recently conducted a study in relation to the use of multiple media. A number of people were observed and then classified as heavy or light media multitaskers. When they were then tested on things like working memory, fluid intelligence, working memory, and task switching it became apparent that the heavy media users were actually more impulsive and had lower levels of fluid intelligence.

This result means that the more media someone is exposed to, the less actual concentration they are able to give to any particular task. Media, especially the internet, is also leading us to be more likely to remember where we can find information, rather than actually focusing on the information itself and storing it within our minds. Perhaps this is because we are all so busy today that it is much more difficult to actually pay attention to something in particular when everything is going on around us.

How Memory Has Changed in the Digital Age:

According to scientists, memory has always been transaction oriented in nature. This means that we focus much more on where to find things, rather than trying to internalize and remember every little detail. At least we do this with things that are not critical. On the other hand, if there is information we need to know, we make special effort to ensure this is committed to actual working memory.

Technology and the media have certainly changed things. For most of human history, the most reliable sources of information were other people. If there was something that we needed to know, it was a simple matter of finding someone who did and then we could remember this new information ourselves. Now, the media and the internet have replaced this person-to-person information network in favor of a digital network. The bottom line is still that we remember what we want and file the rest under the heading of ‘go here to learn more.’