Using smartphones could help improve memory skills

Using digital devices, such as smartphones, could help improve memory skills rather than causing people to become lazy or forgetful, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

The research, published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, showed that digital devices help people to store and remember very important information. This, in turn, frees up their memory to recall additional less important things.

Neuroscientists have previously expressed concerns that the overuse of technology could result in the breakdown of cognitive abilities and cause “digital dementia.”

However, the findings show that using a digital device as external memory not only helps people to remember the information saved into the device, but it also helps them to remember unsaved information too.

To demonstrate this, researchers developed a memory task to be played on a touchscreen digital tablet or computer. The test was undertaken by 158 volunteers aged between 18 and 71.

Participants were shown up to 12 numbered circles on the screen, and had to remember to drag some of these to the left and some to the right. The number of circles that they remembered to drag to the correct side determined their pay at the end of the experiment. One side was designated ‘high value’, meaning that remembering to drag a circle to this side was worth 10 times as much money as remembering to drag a circle to the other ‘low value’ side.

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