We all know that technology has changed the way we live our lives. But, did you know that our technological advancements have actually changed the way our brains work? We now think, feel, and even dream differently than we did before PCs, smartphones, and other smart devices. The culprit? A phenomenon known as neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to alter its behavior based on new experiences. All of the information available at our fingertips and all of the new, interactive tools we tap into have actually changed the way our brains work.
Cognition experts differ on whether or not the changes are good or bad. Some experts think that technology has allowed us to organize our lives more easily, freeing our minds up for deeper thinking. Others are afraid that technology has caused shorter attention spans, made us impatient, and robbed us of creativity.
Many studies have come out researching technology’s affects on our brains. Here are some of the most interesting findings. You decide – is technology changing out brains for the better or worse?
Dreaming in Color
An older technological medium, television, has an incredibly deep affect on our brains, specifically on our dreams. A 2008 Dundee University study found that adults 55 and older that grew up with a black and white television set were more likely to dream in black and white. Younger participants nearly always dreamed in color. The American Psychological Assosiation agreed with the findings.
“Fear of Missing Out” Is Real
FOMO – or fear of missing out – has been joked about since the advent of social media. The New York Times defines FOMO as “the blend of anxiety, inadequacy, and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media.”
Before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and all of the other popular social media sites, people that chose to stay home on a Friday night might have felt a pang of “Maybe I should have gone out” feelings. But with social media, that small pang of guilt is blown up to mega proportions. When you’re forced to see photos and videos of delicious dinners, ridiculous-colored cocktails, and dancing galore, you might feel like you should be out in your best outfit, not at home in your sweats. Even if it’s not your thing, you still might feel that guilt.
There’s even some evidence that looking at a friend’s food Instagram picture makes your own meal taste bland by comparison.
Because of cell phones, we’re hardwired to think our phones are ringing, even if they’re not. A 2012 study published in the journal of Computers and Human Behavior found that 89% of 290 undergrad students surveyed felt their phone vibrating, even when it wasn’t, once ever couple of weeks. A similar survey of hospital workers found the same thing, both for vibrating phones and patient alarms.
A research psychologist suggested that physical sensations like itches might now be misinterpreted by our brains as our cell phone vibrating.
Any tech-savvy person knows the feeling of lying in bed, looking at the glow of a computer screen or a smartphone. Neuroscientists think that the glowing lights emitted by laptop, tablet, and smartphone screens are screwing with out internal light cues and sleep-inducing hormones. Exposure to bright lights can fool the brain into thinking it’s still daytime and may even have long-lasting affects on our circadian rhythms. Our eyes are very sensitive to the blue light emitted by screens, making it even harder to fall asleep (especially if you have insomnia).
Want to read about other ways technology is chaging our basic brain functions? Check out the full article on Mashable.