In present times, it is prevalent that each person has their smartphone or tablet. New research shows us that using electronic devices lowers brain activity and may cause problems in the understanding of scientific and complex texts.
Technology has become vital in everyone’s lives these days. Smartphones encompass everything, from emails to social media to the weather. Everything is easily accessible in one compact place.
However, this convenience comes with a downside as well. We are always ‘training’ our minds to access and process information the way our phones provide it. The brain becomes accustomed to this method. Once this happens, people may struggle to engage with and understand difficult concepts and texts. The higher the level of complexity, the harder to understand.
Scientists from Pennsylvania State University have recently published a new study in the Scientific Reports to understand this theory thoroughly.
Study Highlights How Understanding is Impaired by Overuse of Devices
The study says that specific texts such as scientific articles are more complex in structure and content. The scientists used cross related data that readers see in different places in a text. Understand texts such as these means the subject must be able to identify the information they are reading and then find the link between various concepts that are in the text.
Researchers found that individuals who used their smartphone devices in excess reportedly had problems in the comprehension of the texts when compared to those not dependent on their devices.
Ping Li, the co-head investigator of the study, says “people used electronic devices excessively, that could probably impair their ability to acquire a sound hierarchical order (or structure) of scientific concepts.”
Ping Li claimed that if a person cannot understand the hierarchy in the texts, then it’s hard to grasp the essence of the ideas that are being explained. The understanding of scientific concepts is different from others. One needs to be able to connect the dots between ideas, not just string two sentences together. The hierarchical structure is crucial, and that is something that students these days are struggling with the most.
Overuse of electronic devices lowers brain activity and decreases understanding
The subject pool of the study consisted of 51 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 40. They were all right-handed. The participants had to take MRI scans to monitor their brain activity. They read five scientific articles during the scan on the topics of math, electric circuits, the environment, GPS, and the planet Mars.
The investigators also tracked the eye movements of all the participants while reading the articles.
The findings were the same for all the articles read by the participants.
The participants who used their phones more excessively throughout the day reportedly had lower brain activity, in areas such as the left insula and the inferior frontal gyrus. These are the areas responsible for processing complex information, paying attention, and understanding language.
While electronic devices stimulate some parts of our brains, they weaken others. More research will help us understand the exact impact their devices have on the understanding capabilities of students.