Info overload blamed for memory loss and, uh, something else

Information overload has never had a stellar rep, but it really needs a good PR firm now. A new study has blamed it for inability to remember everything from PIN numbers to why you walked into the kitchen.

Says The Daily Mail:

According to doctors at CPS Research, a Glasgow-based clinical trials company, the syndrome is caused by hectic lives bombarded with information overload from mobile phones, BlackBerrys, TV, radio and the internet. ‘We believe there are widespread signs of the problem,’ says spokeswoman Angela Scott-Henderson. ‘Our attention spans and concentration levels are going down. It’s getting to be more common, affecting people at younger ages.’

The Scottish researchers have dubbed the problem “Busy Lifestyle Syndrome.”

But wait.  There’s more.

In a Daily Beast article called “Twittered into Paralysis,” Sharon Begley describes yet another study—from the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University.  It says that Facebook, Twitter and countless smartphone apps have had an unintended consequence—our overloaded brains freeze when we have to make decisions:

Trying to drink from a firehose of information has harmful cognitive effects. And nowhere are those effects clearer, and more worrying, than in our ability to make smart, creative, successful decisions.

The research should give pause to anyone addicted to incoming texts and tweets. The booming science of decision-making has shown that more information can lead to objectively poorer choices, and to choices that people come to regret. It has shown that an unconscious system guides many of our decisions, and that it can be sidelined by too much information. And it has shown that decisions requiring creativity benefit from letting the problem incubate below the level of awareness-—something that becomes ever more difficult when information never stops arriving.

It’s serious stuff and provides fresh new ammunition for anyone looking to make the business case for fighting information overload.

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