Is Your Phone Eroding Your Memory?

Posted by on October 17, 2015 in Sci-Tech, Technology with 17 Comments

Lloyd Alter | Mother Nature Network

smart phone

A new study finds that we cannot remember phone numbers anymore. Shocking!

Smartphones appear to be terrible things. Sherry Turkle thinks they are ruining conversation. Now the BBC writes that digital dependence is eroding human memory. They quote a recent study that asked questions to 6,000 people, and found that over a third of them would look the answer up on the Internet before responding. According to a press release from Kaspersky Lab, an Internet security firm that commissioned the study, it is a plague of “Digital Amnesia.” Maria Wimber of the University of Birmingham, who reviewed the study, notes:

Past research has repeatedly demonstrated that actively recalling information is a very efficient way to create a permanent memory. In contrast, passively repeating information (e.g. by repeatedly looking it up on the internet) does not create a solid, lasting memory trace in the same way. Based on this research, it can be argued that the trend to look up information before even trying to recall it prevents the build-up of long-term memories.

Related Article: 15 Brain Foods to Boost Focus and Memory

The question of the effect of technology on our memories has been around for a while. I do remember that it troubled Socrates a few thousand years ago, when writing was developed; According to Plato he said:

[Writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.

And then there was that Gutenberg guy, who Bill Keller of the New York Times called the Mark Zuckerberg of his day: “As we became accustomed to relying on the printed page, the work of remembering gradually fell into disuse.”

digital amnesiaUm, what was that number again? (Photo: Kaspersky Lab)

But the smartphone and the Internet! The survey found that more than half of the surveyed adult Europeans could not recall their children’s or their office phone numbers without looking into their mobile phones. Around a third were not able to remember their partner’s number. Shocking, how bad our memories have become; a lot of people they studied could remember their phone numbers from their childhood, but not their wives's numbers now.

Related Article: Boost Your Brain Power with 5 Simple Memory Improvement Tips

But there is a reason for this that goes deeper than the Internet and smartphones. In fact, remembering phone numbers has been an issue since they were invented. Originally, they were four digits tied back to a telephone exchange where the wires went. So my Grandmother's real estate office was EMpire 8842. My parents' number was RUssell 1-8184 as they added the number and the dash after the exchange. The Empire and the Russell were used to make it easier to remember, because who could possibly keep all those numbers in their heads? I still remember them because as a kid I had to — it was drilled into us in case we ever got into trouble and had to call home. That's what you did, because that's where mom was in those days.


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17 Reader Comments

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  1.' Joshua L. Miranda says:


  2.' Marilena Vaccarini says:

    yep, I can’t remember any number

  3.' Dawn Smith says:

    Uh yes!

  4.' Herbert Gordon says:

    It’s called dumbing down the human race slowly so there’s no resentment or resistance.

  5.' Joan Cuylaerts says:

    true 🙁

  6.' Monique Linebarger says:

    Technology is ruining my memory, my intellectual skills and more than I have time to type.

  7.' Ayoub Job Sincere says:

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  8.' Carol Connolly says:

    Yes it’s true !! I started relying on my phone for numbers- just press or even talk to the smartphone and instantly connected. I was asked one day for my husbands phone number and I couldn’t remember it and had to rely on the phone to look it up. Now I make a point of memorising the phone numbers of family, friends and the most frequent numbers I use.

  9.' Surjit Bhuee says:


  10.' Dinah Briggs says:

    I know everybody number that I call, memory only, I am thankful and blessed, use your brain, before it is too late.

  11.' Nagaratnam Navalan Arumugam says:

    No Doubt

  12.' Randy Littik says:

    True. it’s rot my memory.

  13.' Emm Marie says:

    Yep I agree with this fully

  14.' Darren Walshe says:

    That’s prob why Alzheimer’s disease is getting worse because of technology we do nothing for ourselves just rely on technology

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