When I was at school in the 70’s, handheld calculators had just hit the mainstream – clunky and unwieldy, they still dramatically reduced the time it took to do simple calculations that previously I had struggled to squeeze out of a slide rule (who can remember what that was?)
Now, scientists are recognizing that using convenience devices likes smart phones, tablets and laptops to do our thinking and remembering for us, risks underutilization of our intellectual faculties, which can result in sloshy or inadequate brain function.
Top dementia researcher Dr. Frank Gunn-Moore of the University of St. Andrews School of Biology in Fife, Scotland feels that reduced mental acuity will be an unwanted side effect of our dependence on search engines and the expediency of web services. “It’s important to promote good brain health and to do that - is to use it, but these days we seem to outsource our brain to the Internet,” said Dr. Gunn-Moore. “If we want to know something, we look it up online rather than trying to recall the information from our memory.”
While no current studies propose a direct link between using online services and diminished thought power, a 2016 paper published in “Memory” did demonstrate that online access has altered the way we process – experimental subjects who had access to the Internet were more likely and quicker to default to those resources when asked to respond to simple questions, instead of first trying to think of the answers organically.
This may be more habituation than laziness, but it has the same outcome – we are training ourselves to think less and Google more, robbing us of vital brain exercise that keeps us sharp and ready.