Carrying a brain in your pocket may weaken the brain in your head, writes cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham
Thinking is hard work, so people have strategies to avoid it, known as “cognitive miserliness,” he writes. In familiar situations, they do whatever they did the last time. If memory won’t work, “you can often get away with heuristics—quick, cognitively inexpensive processing routines that provide an answer, often a good one.”
According to three studies, “people who are more cognitively miserly are more likely to search information out on their smartphone,” effectively using it as an external memory.
Smartphone use is negatively related to cognitive ability (as measured by brief numeracy and verbal intelligence tests), Willingham adds. “It may be that low-cognitive-ability people seek information—look up a word meaning, calculate a tip—that high-ability people have in their heads.”