Using Smartphones Could Improve Memory

Using technology allows people to remember more information.

Sep 17, 2022


Study, Technology
Using Smartphones Could Improve Memory | Using technology allows people to remember more information.

In recent decades, digital tools like smartphones and tablets have become an essential part of everyday life. People use them for nearly everything. These devices serve as cameras, alarm clocks, information depositories, and picture galleries.

Now a new study from the University College London (UCL) in the UK, published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General has found that using your smartphone could also help improve your memory. 

Surprising results
The  research was conducted by a team led by  associate professor and senior author Sam Gilbert of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. Gadgets Now, reports that Gilbert’s team developed a memory game for 158 volunteers, from the ages of 18-71 to play. The object of the game, which was played on a tablet, was to drag a specific numbered circle to the left or the right. The right was designated “high value”, meaning those circles were worth more than 10 times those that were meant to go to the left, which was “low value”.

The volunteers were asked to do this task 16 times. Half of  the time they had to remember which circles had a high or low value on their own. The other eight times they were allowed to set reminders on their digital devices as to which circles were which. 

The results were surprising. The volunteers tended to use their digital devices to record the high value circles. Their memory of those circles improved by 18 percent. What was not expected, however, was that their memory for the low value circles improved by 27 percent, even if they had not set reminders on their devices. 

“We found that when people have access to a digital memory, they offload the most important information into that digital memory, but this in turn frees up space that we can use to remember additional information,”  Gilbert told UCL News.

Digital dementia concerns
According to UCL News there had been some concern among neuroscientists that our reliance on technology could lead to a sort of digital dementia, wherein people would have trouble remembering things because they rely on their digital devices too much. 

Instead, this study shows that the opposite is true. With our important tasks and memories stored on digital devices, people now have more room in their brains to remember the less important things like where they put their shoes, or the title of a friend’s favorite movie.

The only downside is that sometimes digital devices fail.But we need to be careful that we back up the most important information,” said  Gilbert. “Otherwise, if a memory tool fails, we could be left with nothing but lower-importance information in our own memory.”

So the next time you use your phone to keep track of an important event, don’t worry. You’re not harming your memory, you’re actually helping it.

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.