How smartphone use can improve memory: study – The Hill

Story at a glance


  • Using digital devices to store vital information can free up the mental space to remember less important things.

  • Researchers from University College London found that digital devices help people remember both stored and unsaved information.

  • “When people had to remember it for themselves, they used their memory capacity to remember the most important information,” says the study’s senior author.

Using a digital device like a smartphone could improve memory by allowing people to store vital information externally while also freeing up mental space to recall less important things, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, challenges theories that overuse of technology can lead to cognitive decline.

Researchers from University College London found that using a smartphone as an external memory helps people remember both the information stored on the phone and unsaved information.

For the study, 158 volunteers, ages 18 to 71, were shown up to 12 numbered circles on a screen and had to remember to drag a few to the left or right — high value or low value — showing the number of circles the participants had drawn. remembered to drag determining their wages at the end of the experiment.

Participants completed the task 16 times, half of which they were allowed to set reminders on their device.

Researchers found that participants tended to store information about the high-quality circles on the device, improving their memory by 18 percent. Furthermore, participants’ memory for low-value circles increased by 27 percent.

But the researchers also found that using memories had a price, as the results showed that participants were more likely to remember low-value circles that weren’t stored in the device when the memories were taken away.

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The study’s senior author, Sam Gilbert, said people’s memory improved because using the device “changed the way people used their memory to store important versus less important information.”

“When people had to remember themselves, they used their memory capacity to remember the most important information,” Gilbert said.

“The results show that external memory tools work. Instead of causing ‘digital dementia’, using an external memory device can actually improve our memory for information we never stored,” Gilbert continued. “But we have to be careful to back up the most important information. Otherwise, if a memory tool fails, we would be left with nothing but less important information in our own memory.”

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Published on Aug 02, 2022

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