British Study: Too Much Use of Technology Makes You Dumb
Advanced technology has both boons and banes and one British study happens to add another item to the banes list–unfortunately. A new study conducted by British researchers claims that using too much technology could dumb you down. As reported on 9NEWS.com, it was found that people who had the most “media multi-tasking” had less gray matter in their brains.
British researchers scanned the brains of 75 healthy men and women who frequently used several tech devices at a time. These devices include desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, tablet computers, A/V equipment used at home and at work, and various other devices that enable media consumption.
Data from the 75 participants in the study were obtained through a modified media multitasking questionnaire (MMI) consisting of two sections: the first section sought details from the participants on the amount of time they spent on a number of common media types while the second involved a matrix where the participants indicated the extent of concurrent media use they had.
The full study is titled “Higher Media Multi-Tasking Activity Is Associated with Smaller Gray-Matter Density in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex” published on PLOS One, an open access and peer-reviewed journal. It was funded by a PRESTO grant from the Japan Science and Technology Agency.
Using a Voxel=Based Morphometry (VBM) analysis, the researchers found a negative association bewteen MMI scores and gray matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex. This means that higher media-multitasking was associated with smaller gray matter volumes. Please click on this link for the full text and discussion of the research results. A number of analytical approaches have been employed before the researchers concluded that technology could possibly be making people less intelligent. This research, however, is perhaps the first research of its type to be pursued so it is advisable to take the results with a pinch of salt.
Ways Technology Can Dumb You Down
Huffington Post has an article about the ways by which technology can lower a person’s intellectual capacity. These can be summarized as follows:
- Inducing Sleep Problems – Sleep deprivation is perhaps the most obvious and ubiquitous effect of technology on people. Because of the increasingly easier access to various tech devices such as smartphones and tablets, sleep schedules are adversely affected. Sleep doubtlessly plays an important role in mental development and wellness. The bluish artificial light, along with the attention-grabbing functions and features
- Distractions, Diminished Focus – Powerful devices enable multitasking but this inclination to do several tasks at the same time creates the drawback of losing concentration. Worse, a 2012 study claims that multitasking is inefficient. It make the person who multitasks feel better but the quality of accomplishments or tasks completed could be worse. Inefficiency when multitasking is particularly evident among teens.
- Reduced Memory – Author Nicholas Carr once wrote that “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains.” This is not really surprising. Becoming too dependent on the easily accessible information stored on the Interwebs makes people stop exerting the effort to hone their memories. Moreover, the exposure to excessive amounts of information, on the web in particular, makes the brain less capable of remembering things. Taking too much information in is unlikely to facilitate learning and the building of memory.
- Too Much Reliance on the Internet and Apps – Similar to the case of reduced memory due to the overdependence on technology, analytical skills also tend to get blunted or stunted in the convenient presence of various technological tools like mobile apps and the Internet. For instance, many people nowadays refuse to do relatively simple mental arithmetic since it’s way easier to calculate numbers using a calculator or converter app that can be easily installed on smartphones. Also, the sharing of various information online make the indolent many more disinclined to do analytical tasks to solve problems, riddles, games, and even school assignments.
- From Books to Blurbs – The Tendency to Prefer Reading Shorter Texts – Those who have been trained to write content for the web, more often than not, have ingrained in their minds the idea that people who read texts online have very limited attention spans. As such, their writing styles have to be kept debasingly simple so readers wouldn’t have to exert the effort to analyze or re-read what they’ve just read. Sentences are expected to be shorter and the choice of words is likewise expected to be very elementary. All of these successfully make reading easier at the expense of losing the kind of sophisticated reading comprehension being developed with traditional reading materials or articles.
- Addiction – Internet and gaming addictions are a reality. They are not instances or circumstances whimsically named by some parents who are bothered by the excessive amounts of time their children spend on their computers or gaming consoles. In fact, a study back in 2012 found that Internet addiction has effects on the brain comparable to the effects caused by drug and alcohol abuse.
Technology indeed can be both a friend or foe. It has its advantages and disadvantages. Having disadvantages, however, does not make technology less appealing and less useful. Whether or not it can make a person dumber, after all, depends on how a person makes use of technology and exercises moderation to prevent adverse consequences.