Memory: How digital technologies influence cognitive information storage
Below is an editorial summary of “Memory”:
Memory is foundational to cognition. It enables individuals to operate with certain assumptions about truth based on prior validated beliefs. Memory informs individual decision making, reasoning, and problem solving. There are also significant societal implications rooted in memory function. Individual memories, collectively and cumulatively, inform the development of “national memory,” which in turn influences “the construction of a democratic culture and collective identity.” This report provides a working definition of memory and focuses especially on long-term memory.
The class of long-term memory identified as critical to our investigation is outsourced memory. Two key examples of digital technologies that “outsource” memory are: the Google effect and the GPS effect.
This trust in and reliance on devices, tools, and platforms—which in fact have significant flaws and biases, and are often intentionally manipulative—may pose issues for behavior in other settings, and thus for societal and democratic functioning more broadly. Additionally, if people believe they store more information internally than they do, there is a risk of co-dependence on external information stores to supplement or supplant individual knowledge. Constantly seeking information externally also risks increasing the likelihood of exposure to biased, manipulated, or inaccurate information, which may also change how information is processed and synthesized across diverse contexts. Combined, these processes may adversely affect the information ecosystem, public discourse, and civic engagement.download pdf