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The ability to remember is being forgotten

Girl on a phone trying to remember

There are some crucial skills needed for every PA: organisation, readiness and the ability to remember are all key, but what if your memory isn’t as sharp as it once was? People have become lazy with technology and the ability to remember is on the decline new research has found.

The average Brit forgets at least five things every day, thanks to technology.

A new study of 2,000 adults shows many are unable to remember passwords, phone numbers of family and friends and even how to spell certain words because they rely on gadgets to do it for them.

Other things commonly forgotten as a result of our reliance on technology include how to write neatly and how to carry out basic calculations, such as division and multiplication. Incredibly, 13 per cent of adults don’t even know their own phone number.

Technology was also cited as the reason for respondents forgetting good friends’ addresses, the stars of favourite movies and TV programmes, and even how to relax.

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of working animal charity SPANA, the company that commissioned the research, said: “They say elephants never forget, and in the animal kingdom there are certainly some extraordinary memory spans. People may be increasingly struggling to remember certain basic information these days.

“But we know that, for instance, donkeys can remember other donkeys and places they’ve been for up to 25 years, and elephants are able to identify at least 30 of their relatives and remember companions for around 22 years.”

Daniel C Richardson, professor of experimental psychology at UCL, added: “Technology has transformed how we store and access knowledge. How many of your friend’s and family’s phone numbers do you know from memory?

“If you had asked that question 20 years ago, most people would have been able to reel off a string of numbers. Indeed, those of over 40 might still remember the numbers of long departed ex-boyfriends or girlfriends. But today, most people rely on devices and the cloud to store, sync and deliver numbers to their fingertips.

“Similarly, if asked ‘who starred in the first Batman movie’, we can now look that up on a device as quickly as searching our own memories.”

The research found that these days, adults find it more and more difficult to remember things like their bank account details, how to set the time on the clock in the car, or what time a TV programme is on.

Adults also can’t remember how to navigate basic routes as they rely on a sat nav to do it for them, while some use the computer so often that many say they are forgetting how to write properly, how to post a letter or how to pronounce something.

Day to day, people are also finding it harder to recall other people’s birthdays, the time or location of events, and some even said they are forgetting the art of conversation.

Professor Richardson continued: “It feels like there is a big difference between looking up information in your head, and looking it up on your phone. In one case we ‘know’ the information, and in the other, we know how to find out. But, some psychologists have argued that, in a sense, the brain doesn’t make such a sharp distinction.

“It’s called the ‘extended mind’ hypothesis and argues that our brains have always worked to use the world around us as part of our cognitive processing. Think about doing arithmetic in school, and writing down all the steps of long division. Or playing Scrabble, and moving the letters round on your tray rather than juggling them in your head.

“In all these cases, your brain is leaving information ‘in the world’, rather than storing it ‘in the head’, so although technology has dramatically increased the volume of knowledge that we can store and access, it is not fundamentally changing how the brain works, some have argued.”

The study also found that six in ten believe they often forget things because they have the option of searching online for what they need instead. And more than a third agree they don’t need to remember anything, because their technology will do it for them.

As such, adults now make little effort to remember things like directions, facts about the world, special dates, recipes and appointments.

Top 10 things we forget due to technology

  1. Passwords
  2. The spelling of certain words
  3. Your to-do list at work
  4. Your work address
  5. Someone’s name
  6. To listen to someone
  7. How to simply wait for someone
  8. Your own anniversary
  9. Someone’s address
  10. Your bank account details