How retweeting affects your memory

How retweeting affects your memory

Researchers at Cornell University and Beijing University have found that retweeting and other reposting of online information can create cognitive overload and interfere with learning and information retention.

The recent study examined college students who used Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Study participants were divided into two groups. After reading a message, one group would have the option of either reposting or going on to the next message. The second group was only given the “next” option.

When tested on the content of the messages they had read, the first group (the reposters) gave almost twice as many wrong answers as the second group. This led researchers to believe that the reposters could be suffering from cognitive overload.

“Cognitive overload is a phenomenon that has been growing over the past decade as our access to electronic information and devices increases,” says Dr. Kevin Krippner, an Advocate Medical Group clinical psychologist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.  “Sometimes referred to as ‘technostress,’ it is being studied on a more extensive basis to determine the exact impact on our cognitive abilities and levels of stress.”

After viewing a second series of Weibo messages within the same format, students were given an unrelated comprehension test. The participants in the non-posting group again outperformed their peers.

“When there is a choice to share or not share, the decision itself consumes cognitive resources,” said Qi Wang, professor of human development at Cornell University, in a study news release.

“There are a number of people who feel that the tendency to spend too much time on electronic devices has contributed to increased stress related to information overload, which ultimately has an impact on learning and retention of information,” adds Dr. Krippner.

Wang offered a real-life example: “When students are surfing online and exchanging information, and right after they go to take a test, they may perform worse,” he said.

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.