Psychologist: Facebook makes you smarter, Twitter makes you dumber

According to a psychologist, Facebook, video games, and Sudoku enhance intelligence, whereas Twitter, texting, and YouTube actually reduce it.

Have you ever written a text message and then failed to correctly multiply 3 by 7 right after you pressed "send"?

Have you ever posted an update on Facebook and instantly reached for your Proust? And have you ever sent a tweet, looked in the mirror, and suddenly believed that you had a twin?

Well, according to the Telegraph, Dr. Tracy Alloway, a psychologist from the University of Stirling in Scotland, can explain all of this.

The good doctor has spent many of her days studying working memory, which allows people to retain and use information. She believes it to be a far more significant measure of the well-being and intelligence of humanity than, say, IQ.

Alloway spoke Sunday to the British Science Festival at the University of Surrey and rather gushed about the success she has had in training children to enhance their working memory.

And she happened to mention that certain social-media behaviors are rather more conducive at developing working memory than others.

Is this man improving your intelligence? CC Andrew Feinberg/Flickr

While Facebook apparently expands the working memory and therefore "enhances intelligence" because the mind has to work in keeping up with one's 500 friends, Twitter does not deserve such glowing praise.

Instead, Alloway released both barrels of her working memory in a critical appraisal of microblogging. She said that because Twitter was so succinct, "your attention span is being reduced and you're not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections."

She was equally critical of anything she deemed "instant"--YouTube and texting, for example. On the other hand, video games and Sudoku allegedly involve more thinking depth, more tracking of past actions, and more mapping of those things you might do in the future. Therefore, they enhance working memory.

I find myself instantly recoiling from the doctor's pleasantly radical analysis. I begin to wonder whether, for example, it makes a difference if you are watching a four-minute video on YouTube about, say, the Large Hadron Collider.

I wonder if it counts that you find a link on Twitter that leads you to a deeply intellectual debunking of all research methods in psychology.

And I wonder whether it really can be true that keeping up with a bunch of supposed friends on Facebook can make you just that little bit smarter.

Surely when you think of all the time some people spend on Facebook, doesn't it make you think that perhaps, just perhaps, they need to get a life? Or at least a better working memory of one?

 

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