Can you recite your parents’ phone number? If you can’t, you’re not alone. A survey shows 45 percent of those asked couldn’t recall phone numbers of family members because they’re stored in their smart phones.
More people are using their phones as an external memory port, leading to what’s called “digital amnesia.” Doctor Aura Nasir, a pediatrician in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says she’s not too worried.
“Our brains are really very adaptive and we will remember what we need to remember,” Dr. Nasir says. “The numbers are not only stored on the phone but also dialed for us and this is one of the reasons we don’t remember them, because one of the ways we remember things is by repetition.”
This digital amnesia, or relying on technology instead of memory, is just one way modern advances are altering our way of life.
“I don’t think we fully understand the impact of the digital technology,” Nasir says. “What we know is that digital technology is a tool that is going to affect the way we do business, just like cars changed the way we travel and medicine is practiced in a different way now than it used to be in the past.”
Our brains are very efficient in the way memories are stored and if they don’t need to be taking up space, they won’t be there long. “If it is not an advantage to us to remember or keep those numbers in our brains, our brains are not going to keep them there just because we have sometime in the past and that was in the past advantageous to us, but now it isn’t anymore,” according to Nasir, a pediatrician at University of Nebraska Medical Center.
While about half of the people surveyed couldn’t remember their parents’ phone number, about 70 percent knew their spouse’s number by heart. Many of those who report having digital amnesia are 18 years old — and younger — and grew up with pocket technology.