Media Multitasking Disrupts Memory, Even in Young Adults

The bulky, modern human brain evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago and, for the most part, has remained largely unchanged. That is, it is innately tuned to analog information—to focus on the hunt at hand or perhaps the forage for wild plants. Yet we now pummel our ancient thinking organ with a daily deluge of digital information that many scientists believe may have enduring and worrisome effects.

“This is an impressive study,” comments Daphne Bavelier, a professor of psychology at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, who was not involved in the new research. “The work is important as it identifies a source of interindividual variability when one is cued to remember information”—the differences in attention among the study participants. “These findings are novel and tell us something important about the relationship between attention and memory, and their link to everyday behavior ..., [something] we did not know before,” adds Harvard University psychologist Daniel L. Schacter (SHS 1970), who was also not involved in the study.

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