Is impatience helping to trigger Digital Amnesia?

A third of adults will Google answers before trying to remember and 24% will forget what they’ve found as soon as they’ve used it

In an increasingly connected world where the average attention span has fallen to just eight seconds, our inclination to forget facts we can retrieve from a digital device or the Internet, known as Digital Amnesia, could be exacerbated by our need to get what we want within milliseconds, a Kaspersky Lab’s international study into the condition suggests. 

The study, which involved 6,000 consumers aged 16 and older, shows that when faced with a question, 57% of those surveyed will try to come up with the answer themselves, but 36% will head straight for the Internet, rising to 40% of those aged 45 and over. These consumers seem to be reluctant to spend time trying to recall something from memory or possibly doubt the accuracy of those memories. 

A quarter (24%) of respondents admit they would forget the online answer as soon as they had used it, rising to 27% of those aged 45 and over, with 12% assuming the information will always be out there somewhere.

This urge for the fastest possible access to information, combined with a reluctance to remember it afterwards, has far-reaching implications for both our long-term memories and for the IT security of the devices we depend on. In terms of memory development, the experts who advised on the Digital Amnesia report highlight how a failure to make use of the information stored in our memories – for example by preferring to search online – can ultimately result in the dilution or disappearance of those memories.

“Our brain appears to strengthen a memory each time we recall it, and at the same time forget irrelevant memories that are distracting us. Past research has repeatedly demonstrated that actively recalling information is a very efficient way to create a permanent memory. In contrast, passively repeating information (e.g. by repeatedly looking it up on the internet) does not create a solid, lasting memory trace in the same way. Based on this research, it can be argued that the trend to look up information before even trying to recall it prevents the build-up of long-term memories,” explains Dr Maria Wimber, Lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.

Digital Amnesia is a reflection of today’s connected, information-rich lives.’

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IT security can be an early casualty of our impatience to access information online. Kaspersky Lab has found that just under a fifth (18%) of consumers – 22% of those aged up to 24 – will opt for speed over protection when downloading files. This leaves the door wide open for malicious software intent on stealing personal data and compromising the device and any other devices connected to it. 

If consumers haven’t protected their data, their online accounts and devices with strong passwords and data back-ups, the memories and information these hold could be lost or damaged forever.

“Digital Amnesia is a reflection of today’s connected, information-rich lives. Our study into the condition shows how we no longer hold in our minds information we can store and retrieve from a digital device or the Internet. We are now discovering that Digital Amnesia is also influenced by wider forces, including a need for instant answers when faced with a question. Have we become not just unable or unwilling but too impatient to remember?” says David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. 

“This data impatience could be placing consumers at risk if they are tempted to cut corners on safety. Security and speed shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. The right security solution allows for both: effectively protecting what matters most while leaving users free to enjoy the vast information riches of the Internet, enhancing their personal memories and stimulating curiosity and discovery,” concludes Emm.

The report, The rise and impact of Digital Amnesia: Why we need to protect what we no longer remember, can be downloaded from https://kas.pr/digam. 

A downloadable Your digital valuables guide which explores the dangers of not remembering things for ourselves can be downloaded from https://www.thinksecurityguide.com/Your-digital-assets/Digital-amnesia.aspx.

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