While the word “Dumber” infers a level of name calling and negative judgement, the truth be told; Smartphones are fundamentally altering the manner that our brains work. This especially holds true for the younger generation that were born into this Age of Smartphone Technology. These experiences and the diminished or absence of other learning experiences ( older generations were exposed to) are creating very different individuals with reduced Cognitive, Focused Attention, Memory, Executive Functioning and most especially Creativity.
Across the entire spectrum there was no improvement of brain function or benefit from Smartphone usage.
FOCUSED & DIVIDED ATTENTION
The hectic and frenetic smartphone environment of constant stimulus distractions and interruption has greatly impact Cognitive Performance. This is especially accurate in the area of a steep increase in Resumption Errors that occur when jumping from the phone back to the focused task at hand. Survey after survey consistently validated a curve of poorer performance and quality of work. Using the Media Multitask Index (MMI) researchers were able to chart the impact of task switching. The one area that there was some level of a flat curve was in the area of Repetitive Task Practices where it would appear that deeply wired unconscious energies where compensating for the obvious impairment of conscious effort.
MEMORY- RECALL OF KNOWLEDGE
The constant reference to a limitless data base weaken recall and has had a negative effect on long and short-term memory. The “Google Effect/ Digital Amnesia” has especially impaired our ability to store facts on any long-term. Our shift in teaching children to “reference” versus “remember” has created several generations that struggle with the retention of information. The more complex or detailed the facts are, the less compacity to retain them. This reliance on search engines have supplanted thinking and have resulted in reduced Analytical Cognitive Skills. Even more telling is the dependency on GPS devices has altered our natural/ instinctive sense of direction. Once again it is this shift away from retaining information to referencing information.
DELAY OF GRATIFICATION & REWARD PROCESSING
These media devices and video games have created a generation addicted to Instant Gratification. Prone to Impulsivity there is no effort to utilizing deductive or analytical reasoning to problem solve. A distinct absence of Self-Control and Self-Discipline which is directly related to the functional and structural changes that now exist in their brains. These actions have further and more serious Cognitive impacts
EVERY DAY COGNITIVE FUNCTION
A marked reduction in Executive Function and an inability to Self-Regulate overall behavior to maintain goal related and oriented tasks. Work Memory Compacity is vastly reduced in terms of speed and accuracy with a wide range of tasks related objectives. This falls even further especially after interruptions or distractions
This poor level of performance has a direct correlation to quantity and quality of sleep. This difficulty in sleeping impacts mood and temperament with increased levels of depression. Along with this depression is a jump in anxiety which further impacts all focused attentive tasks, memory related objectives and overall Cognitive Performance. The use of medication to reorient back to focused behavior is temporary and only marginally successful.
The study answered for me a question that I have been asking for a long time dealing with Creativity. The Smartphone Age has stifled Creativity by depriving the brain time to download and rebalance. The 24/7 blue light environment interrupts the normal and ebb and flow of energy. This makes perfect sense as millions of years of DNA wiring cannot adapt to these changes in such a short period of time.
While we are still gathering data as the years progress to have a more comprehensive study, the information that researcher have obtained tell us that we are not getting dumber but are changing. These changes in conjunction with technology may prove to be beneficial.
Old School well educated individuals like me that have vast amount of memory on a wide range of topics maybe obsolete in an age where knowledge can be obtained in a spark of a click. Yet the internal process and recall of “spontaneous knowledge” and how it connects to other interdisciplinary topics is a much high level of brain functioning. It will be interesting to see if this type of mind that is formed through, advanced education, much effort and currently great expense will still be as highly valued in the future.
What concerns me most is the cognitive impairment across a wide range of abilities and how that relates to our ability to better understand each other. This age of smartphone technology comes with the promise of global connectivity but in essence has become a small reflecting mirror of insignificant information and 24/7 personal entertainment.
So the key word here is not “Dumber” but “Different” …. Time and only Time will tell the impact of this Age of Smartphone Technology.