Wait Before You Retweet That. You're Probably Going to Forget It.

How's this for crazy?

Chances are, you don't remember what you just retweeted.

Now we're not talking about the normal memory lapses -- where you put the keys, your glasses and your toddler (just kidding).  But newswise.com reports that retweeting or otherwise sharing information creates a “cognitive overload” that interferes with learning and retaining what you’ve just seen.

 I can totally relate.

"Most people don’t post original ideas any more. You just share what you read with your friends,” says Qi Wang, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. “But they don’t realize that sharing has a downside. It may interfere with other things we do.”

Wang and colleagues in China conducted experiments showing that “retweeting” interfered with learning and memory, both online and off.

At computers in a laboratory setting, two groups were presented with a series of messages from Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. After reading each message, members of one group had options either to repost or go on to the next message. The other group was given only the “next” option.

After finishing a series of messages, the students were given an online test on the content of those messages. Those in the repost group offered almost twice as many wrong answers and often demonstrated poor comprehension. What they did remember they often remembered poorly, Wang reported. “For things that they reposted, they remembered especially worse,” she added, according to newswise.com.

The researchers theorized that reposters were suffering from “cognitive overload.” When there is a choice to share or not share, the decision itself consumes cognitive resources, Wang explained.

 In a second test, after viewing a series of Weibo messages, the students were given an unrelated paper test on their comprehension of a New Scientist article.

Again, participants in the no-feedback group outperformed the reposters. Subjects also completed a Workload Profile Index, in which they were asked to rate the cognitive demands of the message-viewing task. The results confirmed a higher cognitive drain for the repost group.

“The sharing leads to cognitive overload, and that interferes with the subsequent task,” Wang said. “In real life when students are surfing online and exchanging information and right after that they go to take a test, they may perform worse,” she suggested.

So next time you have to present at a meeting, or take a test, maybe shut off your smart phone first.


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