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In recent times, one of the most active areas of psychology is the study of how
technology may affect our cognitive processes such as memory, thinking and decision
making. With the rise of distance learning, it's important to study tools such as laptops,
smartphones, and tablets; technology is impacting our cognitive processes more and
more. Modern technology has a negative effect on cognitive processes to some extent.
This is because on one hand technology may hinder long term declarative memory but
it may be useful to use regardless.
In the Mueller and Oppenheimer study, the aim was to investigate how electronic
devices hinder memory and learning. Researchers took students through a volunteer
sample and asked them to take notes. One group had paper and pen while the other
hand laptops. They were instructed to take notes on 4 films on bats, breads, vaccines,
and respiration. After one week, there was going to be a test on the material and a
section of both groups were given 10 minutes to study before the test. On the test, there
were factual and conceptual questions which were measured in the results of the
experiment. The findings showed that with note taking, studying before, and conceptual
questions indicated the best results. It also showed that if participants did not get a
chance to study they did poorly on factual knowledge and did fairly well on conceptual
knowledge. The main significant difference was found when the participants did not get
the chance to study. Participants who took notes by hand did significantly better than
those that took notes on the computer.
There are limitations to this study which include the high standard deviation of the
results which means they may be inconsistent and need to be repeated. Low internal
validity as there was no way to control what students did during the week between the
information and the tests. The strengths however, show that it is a high standardized
study and can be easily replicated. It can also be argued that it has low ecological
validity because the students do not often take notes on lectures when they are not
aware of what the topic is. This study shows the effect of computers on our brain in
unknown information gathering. This study shows that taking notes with paper and pen
may be significantly better if learning information that is completely new.
In the sparrow et al study, the aim was to investigate the relationship between memory,
digital technology and ease of access to memory. Some students were given 40 trivia
questions ranging from obscure facts to facts assumed to be well known. Experiment
was a 2x2 independent sample design meaning that there were two independent
variables manipulated at different levels. The two independent variables were:
Participants were told that their information would be saved after pressing space and
would be accessed later or, the participants were told that their info would be erased
after pressing space to make room for a new answer. Along with this participants were
split into two groups: those told to remember the information and those who weren't told.
Participants were then given a blank sheet of paper and 10 minutes to recall everything
they remembered. They were then given a recognition task where there were 40
statements where they had to answer yes/no to if they were different from the original
40 trivia facts.
The findings of the experiment show no significant difference to the participants ability to
recall the trivia facts however, there was a significant difference if the participant
believed that the information would be stored in the computer. Participants who believe
they would be able to retrieve the information from the computer appear to have made
far less effort to remember the information than those who they would not be able to do
this. The experiment was highly controlled meaning more accurate results. Low
ecological validity as it was not common for people to learn unimportant trivia facts with
low stakes overall. It is possible the participants caught onto that aim of the experiment
and purposely tried harder to remember/forget to manipulate the results. No way of
controlling whether or not the participant had known the purposely chosen obscure facts
before. If somebody knew the experiment results as someone who knew the facts
before would score well no matter the variables.
Both of these studies demonstrate the effect of computers on memory and cognition,
each showing them in different aspects. In Mueller and Oppenheimer, computers affect
note taking effectiveness especially when learning a new subject whereas, in Sparrow
et al computers are merely an access point for people and study shows that people tend
to use less cognition to remember if it was saved by a computer. In Sparrow et al,
computers are used as a way to store memory that may be useless or needed for later
which is similar to the real world. Both of these studies show the negative effects of
computers on cognition and memory. The purpose of computers is to keep memory and
keep human cognition to a minimum because they shortcut longer tasks for humans.
Ultimately, computers are an essential part of everyday tasks and regardless of their
affect on our cognition and memory are necessary. Each of these studies show how
different parts of our lives may be affected by computer usage. In both studies,
participants were placed under controlled conditions and many situations such as this
may not occur in application. Each person is different in memory and cognition so the
results of each study should be taken with a grain of salt.