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  • In 2009 a plane was flying from New Jersey to Buffalo, New York. As it cruised on autopilot

  • at 16,000 feet, it encountered a massive storm front. Approaching the airport, the planeís

  • controls began to shudder loudlyóa sign the plane was losing lift and might stall. The

  • pilot took actionóhe pulled back on the controls, lifting the planeís nose. This was precisely

  • the wrong thing to do - instead of preventing a stall, he caused one. The plane spun out

  • of control, and plummeted into a house killing all on board. How had this pilot forgotten

  • his basic emergency training? Is technology ruining our memory? Weíre all living in the

  • age of Google. When we Google one thing and Wikipedia another, weíre not relying on our

  • brains but on our fingertips. Is it making us dumber? First you have to consider there

  • are two main types of memory, nondeclarative memory for skills, emotions and movement;

  • like how to ride a bike. And then thereís declarative memory, for facts and information,

  • like your phone number or the capital of Australia. So when we use technology to look up information,

  • weíre extending our declarative memories. But is that at the expense of our whatís

  • in our brain? The hippocampus is a major part of the brain we use in declarative memory

  • function. It gives us the ability to retain and recall memories about facts, like the

  • largest animal on earth, and events, like your first kiss or the first CD you bought.

  • The formation of new declarative memories relies on both the hippocampus and a region

  • around it, the parahippocampal gyrus. So what happens when we have information at our fingertips

  • and we don't need to remember facts anymore? Well the process in our brain of how we form,

  • retain and recall memories remains the same. What changes is what we choose to form memories

  • about. Instead of remembering more facts, we remember where to find them ó this is

  • called The Google Effect. In one study, participants who were told they could later look up the

  • answers online did not make the effort to remember general trivia. When asked a question

  • people actually thought about computers and search engines instead of searching their

  • own memories for the answer. The use of external memory systems is called transactive memory

  • and itís not new. Einstein once said ì[I do not] carry such information in my mind

  • since it is readily available in booksPlus weíve relied on other people to remember

  • things for usólike a husband or wife. Now thereís a third wheel in the relationshipóGoogleóand

  • itís connecting us like never before. As for that lump of matter inside of our headsóthatís

  • connected too. For our declarative memory, using technology just means weíre tweaking

  • our memory hard drive so we remember where the files and folders are, where we can find

  • information, not necessarily the facts themselves. This will probably happen more and more as

  • our relationship with devices grows. But itís not necessarily a bad thing! fMRI scans showed

  • that for people who are internet savvy, areas of our brains are way more active searching

  • for information online than when reading a book. In our brains our hippocampus is still

  • working the same way, weíre just choosing to retain the most efficient way to find information,

  • and thatís usually online. Weíre all sharing the work of remembering, and it makes us collectively

  • smarter. Itís actually pretty adaptive. The only disadvantage is when you need knowledge

  • on the fly. For split-second decisions, all you can search is that lump of matter inside

  • your head. If you have a burning psychology question, leave it in the comments and subscribe

  • to Braincraft for a new video every other week.

In 2009 a plane was flying from New Jersey to Buffalo, New York. As it cruised on autopilot

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