freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger The rise and rise of cognitive offloading | Christine Morgan - Journalist
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Ever wondered why your memory’s not as sharp or expansive as it used to be? Blame the internet, say researchers at the Universities of California and Illinois. Well, more specifically, blame cognitive offloading, which is when you rely on things like the internet to remember things. In fact, the fact that most of us rely on the internet to tell us what we would have simply committed to memory in the past is affecting our thought processes for problem solving, recall and learning, the researchers claim.

The researchers carried out experiments where volunteers were asked to answer challenging questions on trivia – one group had to use their memory and nothing else, whereas the other used Google. Following the initial questions the volunteers were allowed to use either method to answer easier questions. But 30 percent of those who were originally in the Google group didn’t even attempt to answer anything from memory, despite the questions being less challenging.

“Memory is changing,” says the study’s lead author Dr Benjamin Storm. “Our research shows that as we use the internet to support and extend our memory we become more reliant on it. Whereas before we might have tried to recall something on our own, now we don’t bother. As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more reliant on it in our daily life.”

Go on, admit it. We’ve all done it. After all, what’s the point of trying to stuff your brain full of facts and figures you may only need once or twice in your lifetime when you can access them instantly in Google?

But is this behaviour making us less intelligent? Will it have a lasting impact on human memory?

Who knows? I guess only time will tell.