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The New York Times is running an interesting series called “Your Brain on Computers,” which investigates the impact of technology on everyday life. According to the NY Times, the series aims to examine “how a deluge of data can affect the way people think and behave.” So far, the series comprises three articles:
- More Americans Sense a Downside to an Always Plugged-In Experience
- Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price
- The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In
Of interest as well are some of the sidebar information:
- First Steps to Digital Detox
- Test How Fast You Juggle Tasks
- A Multitasker’s Perspective
- An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness
As you can probably tell by the headlines, many of these articles paint heavy use of technology as a potential danger. For example, in Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price, Matt Richel writes:
While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.
And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.
I would imagine most readers of this blog have a more positive experience with technology than presented in these articles. Do the research and anecdotes reflect your experiences with technology?
<update>Steven Pinker, in his article, Mind Over Mass Media also from the New York Times, is not responding directly to the Your Brain on Computers series, but he certainly is addressing very similar issues and presents a seemingly contradictory point of view:
Critics of new media sometimes use science itself to press their case, citing research that shows how “experience can change the brain.” But cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk. Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it’s not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. But the existence of neural plasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience.
Perhaps it’s safe to say the jury is still out on these issues.