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Have you got a dose of digital amnesia?

Louisa Osmond, Teaching Fellow

Faculty Blog

Odds are that you are reading this blog on a smartphone or tablet. How do I know this? Well, last year mobile internet usage exceeded PC internet usage for the first time, and the gap is growing exponentially.

By the end of 2014 global smartphone sales had reached 967.78 million and 15 per cent of the global population owned a tablet. By 2020 it is estimated that 37 per cent of people will own a connected device. Without a doubt this form of technology has transformed our everyday lives – whether for better or worse is up for debate!

Smartphones and tablets have also seemingly altered the way our brains work. Research from Kaspersky Lab among consumers in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Benelux reveals a direct link between having data available at the click of a button and a failure to commit that information to memory. This phenomenon has been coined ‘digital amnesia’: the experience of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you.

The study revealed that a third of respondents wouldn’t bother trying to remember information such as a phone number, instead turning to their device. People in the UK were found to have the worst case of digital amnesia, with half admitting that instead of racking their brains for the answer to a question, they would employ a search engine to find it for them. You have to wonder how many people cheat at crosswords!

Across Europe, 60 per cent of respondents could phone the house they lived in aged 10 but not their children (53 per cent) or the office (51 per cent) without first looking up the number. Around a third couldn’t call their partners. Moreover, contrary to general assumptions, digital amnesia was found to afflict all generations and wasn’t the preserve of younger ‘digital natives’.

The survey findings suggest that connected devices have become an extension of our brains; this is significant for marketers because consumers can no longer be relied on to remember brand communications and triggers, which could have implications for how brands use online search. Relying on keywords (words related to the brand/product) will still be important, but the smart marketers will be those that can predict the questions their target audiences will ask their search engines and can return a relevant answer.

The full research report can be found here: https://blog.kaspersky.com/files/2015/06/005-Kaspersky-Digital-Amnesia-19.6.15.pdf