In The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,Nicholas Carr quotes a research project at Stanford University in which cognitive tests were given to a group of “heavy media multitaskers” and a group of “relatively light” multitaskers. The heavy multitaskers were much more easily distracted by “irrelevant environmental stimuli” and less able to maintain their concentration on a particular task. On the plus side, young people today have skills their predecessors lacked. They are adept at finding and filtering information, responding to stimuli and doing fast, incisive analysis.
Thanks to the digitisation of our contact books, we can no longer remember phone numbers. According to recent research, one in three Britons under 30 can’t even remember their own number. And it is now so easy to find information via Google that we’re getting worse at remembering any facts at all. Four experiments published in the journal Science in 2011 found that people struggle more than ever before to retain information.