How Does The Internet Affect Our Brain?
- NHNE Wavemaker News List
Current Members: 535
Keep up with all the news in NHNE's universe, visit NHNE Pulse:
Subscribe / unsubscribe / important links at the bottom of this message.
*INTERNET BRAIN: HOW DOES ONLINE WORLD AFFECT YOUR THINKING?*
By Cara Santa Maria
April 25, 2012
Is the internet bad for our brains? Is it affecting our ability to
remember things, form meaningful relationships, or make decisions? How
is it beneficial? Isn't having so much information at our fingertips a
I think it's important to remember that in science, answers to questions
like these are rarely straightforward. Without a doubt the time we spend
online changes our brains, but then again, so does everything we do. Our
brains are highly plastic, meaning that external experience shapes our
neural structure and function. But exactly how the Internet induces
those changes is still something of a mystery.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our
Brains, is attempting to shed light in this very new area of research. I
spoke with him to learn more...
*CARA SANTA MARIA:*Hi everyone. Cara Santa Maria here. How are we
affected by what Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google calls
"the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't
understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had?"
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, has dedicated years of his life
to understanding the complex relationship between the human brain and
*NICHOLAS CARR:*I mean, more than any, I think, individual technology or
medium ever, we spend more time interacting with the Internet and doing
more things; more intellectual things, more personal things and so
forth. And I think what we know about the brain is that it's very
efficient in adapting to the way we use it. When we come to use a tool
like the Internet for so many things, our brains adapt.
*CSM:*The environment shapes who we are and how we think. There's an
ever-developing feedback mechanism, a rich and complex dance between our
external world and our internal thoughts. And this isn't some ineffable
partnership. All of our experiences -- even using the Internet --
physically change the structure and function of our brains. And this is
most apparent during sensitive periods of development.
*NC:*I think one of the most important elements of brain development is
to make sure a child, through the first 20 years of their lives, of
their life, has a lot of different kinds of experiences, different kind
of stimuli. My concern now as we push computer devices, network devices,
to kids at ever younger ages (and we see this with cell phones and
smartphones and ipads and ipod touches) we're stealing away some of that
diversity of experience.
*CSM:*I'm not sure I'm convinced. Doesn't our modern Google culture,
along with gaming and social media, increase our diversity of
experience? Well, Nicholas argues that depth of thought -- critical,
conceptual, even creative thinking -- is not a passive process.
Information doesn't just flow in and stick. It takes time for new ideas
to connect with old ideas, for a rich web of associations grow.
*NC:*If your brain is constantly distracted and constantly taking in new
information, it can never hold any existing piece of information in its
working memory. Because the capacity is so small, in order to make room
for something new coming at you, you have to get rid of something else
that's in there. The experiences that we get on the Internet are
certainly compelling and a lot of us become almost compulsive in our
need to check screens, but what it does is through this process of
cognitive overload, of literally overloading our working memory, is it
prevents us from weaving together information into knowledge. So we
become just, you know, kind of pecking away at little bits of
information without ever getting the big picture.
*CSM:*And apparently, that constant checking of the screens is
reinforced by the little rush of dopamine we get every time there's a
new bit of information available. It gives us a fix. In essence,
checking Facebook, Twitter, whatever really is like crack to us.
*NC:*The more stimulated you are by things coming through your screen,
the less able you are to distinguish important information from trivial
information. What becomes important when you're constantly multitasking,
constantly all following these streams of information, what becomes
important simply is that information is new. And you don't care whether
its important or trivial you just want to get the newest thing.
*CSM:*What do you think? Can we still be critical thinkers or make good
decisions if we can't even separate important information from
extraneous "noise?" How is the internet affecting your brain? You do
realize that you're under the influence right now, right? Get your fix
by reaching out to me on Twitter, Facebook, orleaving a comment right
here on The Huffington Post
NHNE Wavemaker News List
To subscribe, send a message to:
To unsubscribe, send a message to:
To review current posts:
NHNE on Google+
NHNE on Facebook
NHNE on Twitter
NHNE NDE Network
NHNE NDE on Google+
Published by David Sunfellow
Phone: (928) 257-3200
Fax: (815) 642-0117
P.O. Box 2242
Sedona, AZ 86339
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]