Shedding Light in the Darkness

The Rise of Digital Amnesia

digital amnesia figures

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has published a new study that reveals the majority of connected consumers increasingly depend on devices for recalling and storing their memories. Kaspersky Lab has termed this phenomenon Digital Amnesia: the experience of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you.

For the study, they surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 16 and older across the country and found evidence of Digital Amnesia across all age groups and equally among both men and women. The study has found that the ‘Google Effect,’ the impact on our memory of being able to find information online has extended to include important personal information and mobile devices. Survey results showed that 91 percent of consumers can easily admit their dependency on the Internet and devices as a tool for remembering and an extension of their brain.

The findings also suggest that our inability to retain important information is due to the fact that we are handing over responsibility for remembering it to digital devices. Almost half (44%) of survey participants say that their smartphone holds almost everything they need to know or recall.  A quarter of people immediately forget the information they have Googled – a process which can mean the dissolution of memories and useful information.

“The act of forgetting is not inherently a bad thing,” said Dr Kathryn Mills of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, London. “We are beautifully adaptive creatures and we don’t remember everything because it is not to our advantage to do so. Forgetting becomes unhelpful when it involves losing information that we need to remember.”

“Our brain appears to strengthen a memory each time we recall it and at the same time forget irrelevant memories that are distracting us,” said Dr Maria Wimber of the University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology, who was involved with the report.

“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.”

Kaspersky Lab also surveyed 6,000 consumers, aged between 16 and 55+, split equally between male and female, with 1,000 from each of the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Benelux.

The results showed 90% couldn’t reach their children’s schools, and half could no reach their children (53%), without first looking up the number. And 51% couldn’t get hold of their place of work, and around a third couldn’t call their partners.

Yet up to 60% have perfect recall of their home phone numbers when aged 10 and 15 – often reflecting the needs of an age when connected devices were not the ubiquitous companions they are now.


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