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How Smartphones Are Draining Our Brain Power

(Jeff Chiu/AP)
(Jeff Chiu/AP)

Smartphones and our brains. New research says the little computer in our hand is changing our minds.

It’s hard not to love that smartphone.  Feels good in the hand.  That display, so shiny and bright.  And inside, a whole world of data and apps, search engines and tweets, Facebook love and all the information in the world.  Problem is, researchers are finding that those super-entertaining little fountains of info may be draining our brains.  Cutting our concentration.  Trimming our memory.  Making us less thoughtful.  Dumber. This hour, On Point: How the little computer in our hands is changing our minds. —Tom Ashbrook


Nicholas Carr, writes about technology and culture. Author of “Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations.” (@roughtype)

Kristen Duke, Ph.D. candidate in marketing at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego who has studied the way smartphones and the internet affect our thoughts and judgments

Antonio Regalado, senior editor for biomedicine for the MIT Technology Review. (@antonioregalado)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds — “Now that our phones have made it so easy to gather information online, our brains are likely offloading even more of the work of remembering to technology. If the only thing at stake were memories of trivial facts, that might not matter. But, as the pioneering psychologist and philosopher William James said in an 1892 lecture, “the art of remembering is the art of thinking.” Only by encoding information in our biological memory can we weave the rich intellectual associations that form the essence of personal knowledge and give rise to critical and conceptual thinking. No matter how much information swirls around us, the less well-stocked our memory, the less we have to think with.”

Psychology Today: Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid? — “During this study, the UT Austin researchers found that someone’s ability to hold and process data significantly improved if his or her smartphone was in another room while taking a test to gauge attentional control and cognitive processes. Participants who kept their phones in a pocket or bag also outperformed those who kept their phones on the desk while taking the same test. Again, even if the phone was turned off and face down on the desk, the mere sight of one’s own smartphone seemed to induce “brain drain” by depleting finite cognitive resources.”

MIT Technology Review: The Entrepreneur with the $100 Million Plan to Link Brains to Computers — “According to neuroscientists, several figures from the tech sector are currently scouring labs across the U.S. for technology that might fuse human and artificial intelligence. In addition to Johnson, Elon Musk has been teasing a project called “neural lace,” which he said at a 2016 conference will lead to “symbiosis with machines.” And Mark Zuckerberg declared in a 2015 Q&A that people will one day be able to share “full sensory and emotional experiences,” not just photos. Facebook has been hiring neuroscientists for an undisclosed project at Building 8, its secretive hardware division.”


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