That’s a claim we hear a lot these days. It’s in the media, spoken by experts and pundits, and in the air, voiced by parents and teachers. Sometimes it’s uttered in alarm, by those concerned that children’s ability to learn and pay attention is being warped by the hours they spend in front of the computer. Sometimes it’s proclaimed in celebration, by others convinced that a generation of “digital natives” has developed new ways of absorbing and applying information.
In fact, research in cognitive science and psychology shows that both of these sentiments are misplaced. While it is true that our brains are to some extent “plastic”—that is, responsive to experience—it is also the case that there are biological constraints on how our brains operate. These constraints are universal, found across cultures and across generations. What follows is a brief primer on how attention and memory work, and how we can maximize their effectiveness.
This is a very fast, very fascinating read.