THURSDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Before the advent of home computers and cell phones, you probably memorized a lot more information -- such as phone numbers and birthdays -- than you do now.
Not surprisingly, a new study has found that the brain just doesn't remember information as well if the person knows that the information has been saved on a computer. What people may remember, however, is where they need to look on the computer to access that information.
What isn't yet clear is how these changing memory patterns may change the brain in the long run.
"I think [technology] might hurt the type of memorization that we usually think about, like remembering the name of an actress, but I think there might be some benefits, too," said study author Betsy Sparrow, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Columbia University in New York City.
"If you take away the mindset of memorization, it might be that people get more information out of what they are reading, and they might better remember the concept," she explained.
Sparrow and her co-authors point out that the ways people rely on computers for information is myriad. From the score of a ballgame to learning how to compute a statistical formula to figuring out just who that actor was in the movie you recently saw, a few keystrokes can reveal what you're looking for.
."People automatically think of using a search engine and computers and smart phones to find information they don't know. It's as if we're using those devices as external memory sources, and we wondered if by doing things this way people wouldn't remember as well," said Sparrow
To test whether or not relying on technology affects the memory, the researchers designed four experiments. All of the study volunteers were college students.
Results of the study were published online in Science on July .14