Smartphone use may enhance memory skills

UCL researchers discovered that the use of smartphones can actually enhance memory skills, disproving the popular myth that excessive use of technology leads to loss of memory.

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Astonishingly, the study shows that the use of smartphones helps people to remember both the information that is saved and not saved on the phone.

We found that when people were permitted to use external memory, the device helped them remember the information they had stored in it. Not surprisingly, we also found that the device improved people’s memory for unsaved information as well, said the lead writer, Dr. Sam Gilbert (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience), in a media release.

To carry out the study, the researchers developed a memory task performed on a digital device by 158 participants aged 18 to 71.

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Volunteers were shown up to 12 numbered circles on the screen and told not to forget to swipe the circles left or right. One side was considered “of great value” and would bring more money to the participants at the end of the experiment than if they dragged the circle to the “of low value”.

The researchers found that participants tended to use digital devices to store details from high-value circles, which enhanced their memory by 18%. Participant memory for low-value circles has also increased by 27%.

‘Findings show that external memory tools are working,’ said Dr. Gilbert. “Far from causing “digital dementia,” the use of an external memory device can even enhance our memory for information we never saved.

But we have to take care to save the most important information. Otherwise, if a memory tool crashes, we may only have small amounts of information in our own memory.”

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