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Are mobile phones making us dumber?

A new report suggests the answer is 'yes', claiming that our increasing reliance on digital technology is steadily eroding our ability to store numbers mentally.

brain

New research claims to have definitively proved what most of us already suspected: relying on mobile phones to store numbers is damaging our memories.

The online study, carried out by ResearchNow on behalf of CPP, reveals that four out of five Britons aren't able to recall a telephone number after just five seconds, while a total of 23 million Britons don't know their partner's mobile number off by heart, and 30 million aren't able to remember their best friend's number.

"Brits' inability to recall numbers of their nearest and dearest means that many could be in a very tricky and distressing situation if their phone is lost or stolen, if they have no idea how to contact someone for help," said CPP spokesman Michael Lynch. "This shows us that mobiles have literally become people's lifelines."

The survey also revealed the memory drain was being felt in other areas too more than half of the 2,000 or so UK adults surveyed said they struggled to memorise their bank account number and 44 per cent couldn't recall their national insurance number.

Interestingly, our ability to store landline phone numbers mentally is significantly stronger than for mobiles 92 per cent of those asked were able to quote their home number from memory, and 60 per cent knew their parents' number.

"As technology gets more sophisticated, our own memories are on the decline as we increasingly rely on information stored on phones and online," said psychologist Dr Glenn Wilson.

"While this reliance can be problematic if people are totally dependent on an external memory store that is lost or becomes temporarily unavailable, it can also affect an individual's mental agility later in life. Like many other skills, memory needs exercising if the capacity is not to be lost."

While most people appear to realise their increasing reliance on mobile phones to store important information, the majority seem unwilling to do anything about it.

Two-thirds of those surveyed confessed to being anxious about losing the phone numbers stored in their mobiles, while four in 10 worry were scared of losing their photos and a third about the potential for lost text messages. However, just 43 per cent of those asked said they had ever backed the data up.

The CPP suggests five tips for improving the ability to remember numbers, which include associating a colour or significant event with the number, visualising dialling it and reciting it out loud.

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