Memory and Technology Used to Improve our Lives

Whether following directions or remembering a list of chores, people depend on their memories to help them get through the day.

However, a lot of the technology we use to improve our lives has had the side effect of weakening our ability to remember. In studies, researchers found that when participants knew they could find information using their computers, they were great at remembering where they could look up the information but bad at remembering what the information actually was. On the flip side, when people knew they wouldn’t be able to gain access to some information later, they remembered it much better. This means that when we depend on search engines, our brains don’t hold onto extra facts as easily.

Search engines like Google are not the only things hurting people’s memories. Using social media to share pictures or write about your experience has also been shown to decrease your ability to remember. It turns out that when you write a detailed post about a fun experience, your brain treats it as if you put your memory away in an online filing cabinet. The effect is that you don’t remember the details so well anymore.

Despite all this information, it’s not likely that people will stop using technology anytime soon. So what can be done about all of this?

If you find yourself frequently forgetting details, the good news is that you don’t need fancy products to master memory. Without even realizing it, you may already be using some of the strategies that researchers have found boost memory.

Have you ever heard an interesting story and then been eager to tell someone else about it? This is likely because certain details stuck out. Interesting details make a story easier to remember and then retell to others. People often use stories or narratives to help make sense of something important. Stories help to organize information. It’s no surprise, then, that people use quirky or silly stories with vivid images to help them remember important information. 

This type of memory device has roots in history. Before the Internet and paper and pencil, when people wanted to remember something, they didn’t have the option to write it down or type it out. They had to use creative ways to remember things. For example, some cultures linked important information with the position of the stars in the sky or landmarks around their homes. Then they’d tell stories to each other based around these important places. This helped to preserve and pass down information for thousands of years. People can use these same methods today, whether preparing for a work presentation or studying for a quiz.

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