The UK population is suffering from ‘digital amnesia’, brought on by over-reliance on smartphones and Google to summon up information people no longer retain as memories.
Just under half of connected adults cannot recall their partner’s phone number, while 71 per cent can’t remember their children’s, a study from Kaspersky Lab has found.
Over half of 16-24 year-olds surveyed said their smartphone held almost everything they need to know or remember, as people increasingly store contact information and important details only in their digital devices.
“We need to understand the long term implications of this for how we remember and how we protect those memories,” said David Emm, principal security research at Kaspersky Lab. “The phone numbers of those who matter most to us are now just a click away – so we no longer bother to memorise the details.”
Dr Kathryn Mills, from UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, likened internet access to equivalent to electricity and running water across many societies.
“The act of forgetting is not inherently a bad thing. We are beautifully adaptive creatures and we don’t remember everything because it is not to our advantage to do so,” she said. “Forgetting becomes unhelpful when it involves losing information that we need to remember.”
Dr Mills believes that deep trust in our connected devices is what has helped to trigger the placing of less importance on retaining information.
A study from Microsoft earlier in the year found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.
It found that consumers who consume more media and are earlier tech adopters struggled to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed.
Research conducted in 2012 found that many schools feared children have short attention spans and prefer to spend time online rather than reading a novel.
Three-quarters of 400 secondary school English teachers said that children’s attention spans were shorter than ever before, while 94 per cent claimed that pupils preferred to be using the internet rather than reading.