While researching interesting memory findings for my presentation on Memory & Learning, I came across a few articles that I thought were interesting enough to earn their own post. One of those findings was the research performed by Tamir, Templeton, Ward & Zaki (2018).
While I initially thought this research was going to reinforce my feelings about the potential negative impacts of social media, I found that its implications to learning were even more interesting. We’ve all seen plenty of research on the potential negative impacts of social media. The FOMO, the consistent exposure to what are often the best parts of someone else’s life and not the reality, the consistent distraction that can often prevent us from being present in the real world. Those are the parts that I expected this research to support. But my hypothesis was wrong.
In this study, researchers asked people to document their experiences while they were happening using social media (among other things). After that experience, they asked participants to rate their satisfaction and thoughts about the experience and gave them a quiz about the experience. The findings indicated that while preparing social media posts did not negatively impact their feelings or satisfaction with those experiences, it did diminish their memory of the experience.
Basically, how we felt about an experience wasn’t impacted through the act of capturing, documenting, and sharing it. But how accurately we remembered that experience was. Weird right? But it makes sense. We want to share experiences, particularly positive ones. So it’s not too unusual that our feelings about an experience would remain intact. But why was the accuracy of our memory about the content of that experience impacted?
Interestingly, the researchers propose that its because we don’t have to remember the details. Because we are documenting and sharing them. So the details don’t have to live exclusively in our head, in opposition to how we would need to store those details within our brains if we were not sharing it.
This is relevant to me in a few different ways. Most of us have consistent access to Google or the Interweb, so information is ubiquitous. We can reach out and touch almost anything we need to know when we need to know it. Because of this there are many details that we don’t need to remember, because we know we will have access to that information if or when we need to have access to it. The same applies with experiences in this research. Because we are documenting and sharing the experiences, the information within it does not need to be committed to our memories in the same way it would if our ability to access those details was not readily available. In this study, the documentation of an experience may have changed the way it was stored.
Think about how this relates to how we learn. I have long lobbied that if a student knows there is going to be an experiential assessment, game, or performance-based measure of knowledge; we will consume that content differently. I believe we commit less resources (brain power) to information and we will be able to access.
Reference: Tamir, D. I., Templeton, E. M., Ward, A. F., & Zaki, J. (2018) Media usage diminishes memory for experiences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, pp. 161-168.