In a world where technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, one question remains: Is technology making us dumber? It’s a thought-provoking query that sparks debate among scholars, researchers, and the general public. While some argue that our increasing reliance on technology is causing a decline in cognitive abilities, others contend that technology is actually enhancing our intelligence in various ways. Let’s explore this topic and examine the evidence, considering that the answer is not black and white.
Is Technology Making Us Dumber?
The evidence as to whether or not technology is making us dumber is decidedly mixed. On one hand, there is evidence to suggest that technology is impacting our intelligence negatively. For instance, the rise of search engines and easily accessible information has made us prone to relying on external sources for deriving knowledge rather than actively engaging in critical thinking. This can lead to a decline in our ability to remember and retain information. Similarly, the instant gratification provided by technology may foster impatience, reducing our attention spans and inhibiting deeper understanding. (1, 2)
However, it is crucial to note that technology also presents opportunities for cognitive growth and development. Digital devices have opened up new channels for learning and acquiring knowledge, allowing us to access information from across the globe. Platforms like online courses, educational apps, and interactive simulations provide engaging and interactive learning experiences that can enhance our understanding of complex subjects. Moreover, technology has given us the tools to express creativity, collaborate remotely, and solve problems more efficiently. (3)
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Neurobics: Mind Exercises for Mental Sharpness
If individuals are concerned about keeping their minds sharp amidst the increasing prevalence of technology in modern life, neurobic exercises can be a beneficial addition to their routine. Neurobics refers to mental exercises that stimulate various areas of the brain, promoting cognitive function and enhancing memory and attention skills. Here are 15 neurobic exercises that can help keep your mind sharp (4):
1. Brush Your Teeth with Your Non-Dominant Hand
This activity challenges your brain to adapt and improve its cognitive flexibility. In fact, doing anything with your non-dominant hand will challenge your brain more than usual. It will also force you to focus more on the task at hand (no pun intended), which also benefits your brain.
2. Take a New Route on Your Regular Commute
Human beings tend to be very routine-oriented. Most of us take the exact same route to and from work every day. We’re so used to it, in fact, that we (dangerously) completely zone out during the drive. Navigating unfamiliar surroundings forces your brain to create new neural connections and improves spatial awareness.
3. Engage in Memory Games
Puzzles, crosswords, and memory exercises can improve your recall of information accurately. Also, they’re fun to do, either alone or with a partner. The next time you feel the pull just to sit down and watch a movie or show, instead spend at least 20-30 of those minutes playing memory games.
4. Read Aloud
By engaging multiple senses, reading aloud strengthens your memory and concentration. It will also force you to slow down while reading and really engage with the text.
Remember when you were bored in class, and you would doodle in the corners of your notebooks? Maybe you even got in trouble for it from time to time. Turns out, it’s good for your brain (though maybe not when you’re supposed to be paying attention to your teacher). Engaging in doodling exercises enhances creative thinking and can help improve memory and attention.
6. Learn a New Language
Few things force your brain to stay as active as trying to communicate with someone in your non-native language. Studying new languages sharpens cognitive abilities, increases mental flexibility, and improves memory.
7. Engage in Physical Exercise
Physical activity is one of the number one recommendations from brain experts to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. Regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain, enhances cognitive function, and stimulates the growth of new neurons.
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8. Play Strategy Games
Like memory games, strategy games force you to engage and use your brain. These games, in particular, work on your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Games like chess or strategic video games challenge critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and working memory.
9. Try Mindfulness Meditation
Our lives are busy, and they often leave our minds running at a mile-a-minute. Meditation forces us to slow down and turn our attention inward. Practicing mindfulness can improve attention, reduce stress, and enhance memory and cognitive function.
10. Learn to Play a Musical Instrument
Piano, guitar, trumpet, violin, drums – whatever you choose, it’s a good choice for your brain. Playing an instrument takes time and patience and forces you to focus on timing, fingerings, tonality, dynamics, and so much more. Playing a musical instrument activates multiple brain regions, contributing to improved memory, attention, and executive function.
11. Do Mental Math
The next time you have to figure out how much that 30% off item costs, resist the urge just to whip out your phone calculator and figure it out in your head. Calculating numbers mentally exercises your brain and improves mental agility and concentration.
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12. Solve Riddles and Brain Teasers
With so much information now at our fingertips, so many of us rarely practice the art of critical or creative thinking anymore. This is just what riddles force you to do. These activities boost critical thinking, problem-solving, and cognitive flexibility.
13. Engage in Social Interactions
Another one of the number one preventative measures of dementia and cognitive decline is regular socializing. Meaningful social interactions keep the brain active, improve cognitive skills, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
14. Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
This goes hand-in-hand with meditation. These exercises force you to focus on your breath and your body, rather than your to-do list. Deep breathing techniques enhance oxygen flow to the brain, promoting mental alertness and reducing stress.
15. Take Regular Breaks from Technology
Last on this list, but certainly not least. Human beings weren’t meant to spend all day every day staring at different kinds of screens. Disconnecting from technology regularly allows your brain to rest and rejuvenate, improving overall cognitive function.
The Bottom Line
The impact of technology on our intelligence is a complex and multifaceted issue. While there is evidence to suggest both positive and negative effects, it is ultimately up to individuals to balance technology usage and engaging in activities that keep their minds sharp. Integrating neurobic exercises into daily routines can complement the benefits of technology by enhancing cognitive abilities, memory, and attention skills. By staying mindful of our technological consumption and actively engaging in mental exercises, we can strive to maintain optimal cognitive function in an increasingly digital world.
- “Is Technology Making People Dumber Or Smarter?.” ABM College. July 6, 2021.
- “Smart technology is not making us dumber: study.” Phys. University of Cincinnati. July 2, 2021.
- “Is technology making us dumber or smarter? Yes.” The Conversation. Jonathan Coopersmith. June 17, 2016.
- “14 Weird Brain Exercises That Help You Get Smarter.” The Healthy. Lawrence C. Katz, PhD, and Manning Rubin. November 15, 2023