Drugs aren’t the only thing that can addle our brains. New research confirms what your brain may feel following a long, uncontrolled binge through the depths of your social media feeds: The content we devour on the internet really can have a lasting effect on our cognitive abilities. At least, so says a new study published by the International Journal of Business Administration this May.
This is by no means a new hypothesis—New York Times best-selling author Nicholas Carr has argued that the world wide web can erode our intelligence many times, and many ways. But this study suggests it may not be the screen time that’s at fault for lessened abilities—it’s the low quality of most online content. The IJBA study suggests that people who read more low-quality content had lower sophistication, syntax, cadence, and rhythm in their own writing.
In order to conduct the study, researchers collected writing samples from 65 participants between the ages of 23 and 42. Those individuals then self-reported their reading habits as well as what they spent the most time consuming in terms of books, newspapers, and websites. The information was then run through an algorithm-based complexity measurement tool, which matched the quality of the written samples against samples from the sources that the participants said they frequently read. The data suggested a strong correlation between reading and writing skills—meaning, people who read more complex stories had more complex writing, and vice versa. Of course, this study is only suggesting a correlation between these two things—it’s not necessarily clear that one causes the other.