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April 07, 2014

Does the Internet Make You Dumberer: A Kintinuing Ceres

I kind of think this must be true, inasmuch as we are constantly retraining our brain to perform in whatever environment we find ourselves in.

We've been in a digital environment for a long time now. There must be some consequences of that, right?

Claire Handscombe has a commitment problem online. Like a lot of Web surfers, she clicks on links posted on social networks, reads a few sentences, looks for exciting words, and then grows restless, scampering off to the next page she probably won’t commit to.

“I give it a few seconds — not even minutes — and then I’m moving again,” says Handscombe, a 35-year-old graduate student in creative writing at American University.

But it’s not just online anymore. She finds herself behaving the same way with a novel.

“It’s like your eyes are passing over the words but you’re not taking in what they say,” she confessed. “When I realize what’s happening, I have to go back and read again and again.”


Wolf, one of the world’s foremost experts on the study of reading, was startled last year to discover her brain was apparently adapting, too. After a day of scrolling through the Web and hundreds of e-mails, she sat down one evening to read Hermann Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game.”

“I’m not kidding: I couldn’t do it,” she said. “It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn’t force myself to slow down so that I wasn’t skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.”

I find that happens to me a lot. I have trouble reading more than a five or six pages of a novel at a time (unless it's really compelling).

I think my brain is looking for links to click on.

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posted by Ace at 08:23 PM

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