Are smartphones making us dumb? Digital amnesia stops us remembering vital information because we use our devices to store memories

 
Lynsey Barber
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Without our smartphones, we're left scratching our heads (Source: Getty)

Easy access to information at the touch of our fingertips is making it harder for us to remember things and creating digital amnesia.

Storing numbers and other vital information like pin numbers as well as treasured photos on smartphones is acting like an external hard drive for our memories, resulting in the majority of us being unable to recall these details with out a device.

Nearly half of us can't remember the phone number of our significant other, and even more have trouble recalling the digits of their children according to research by Kaspersky Labs. Nearly half of us can however, remember the phone number we had in childhood, when mobile technology was in its infancy for the majority of us.

Which numbers leave us puzzled?

Children's schools  (87%)

Children's  (71%)

Place of work  (57%)

Partner  (49%)

We are increasingly handing over all our important memories to smartphones and devices, Kaspersky conclude, calling the modern phenomenon digital amnesia - "the experience of forgetting information that you trust to a digital device to store and remember for you".

And it's Brits who are suffering the most from digital amnesia, with those in the UK having a harder time recalling numbers than the rest of Europe.

One in three of us would turn to the internet for information before trying to remember a fact, and one in four forget that fact as soon as they have used it, Kaspersky's study found.

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The researchers found men and women were equally likely to succumb to digital amnesia and that it's not just reserved for the young, finding it "surprisingly" prevalent among older generations.

“Reliance on digital devices, and the trust we place in them, can resemble a human relationship. The feelings are established in the same way - through experience. Repeated experience with a reliable individual builds a ‘schema’ or association for that individual in our memory, telling us that this person can be depended on. If a digital device is continually reliable then we will build that into our schema of that device,” explains UCL cognitive neuroscience researcher Dr Kathryn Mills.

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If we were to lose our phones and access to those memories, the majority (40 per cent) of us would feel sad that we would never be able to get them back, while 22 per cent would be overtaken by panic. A similar number of sensible Brits would remain calm, however, saying they would be able to recall the memories stored on their device and keep hold of hard copies of pictures,

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