Web 2.0 tools usage and intelligence

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    Henry Brown

    from the British newspaper The Telegraph

    Facebook ‘enhances intelligence’ but Twitter ‘diminishes it’, claims psychologist
    By Lucy Cockcroft
    Published: 7:00AM BST 07 Sep 2009

    Playing video war games and solving Sudoku may have the same effect as keeping up to date with Facebook, according to Dr Tracy Alloway.

    But text messaging, micro-blogging on ”Twitter” and watching YouTube were all likely to weaken ”working memory”.

    Working memory involves the ability both to remember information and to use it.

    At a job interview, a candidate will employ working memory to match answers to questions in the most impressive way.

    Dr Alloway, from the University of Stirling in Scotland, has extensively studied working memory and believes it to be far more important to success and happiness than IQ.

    Her team has developed a working memory training programme that greatly increased the performance of slow-learning children aged 11 to 14 at a school in Durham.

    After eight weeks of ”JungleMemory” training, the children saw 10 point improvements in IQ, literacy and numeracy tests.

    A number who started off close to the bottom of the class ended up near the top.

    ”It was a massive effect,” said Dr Alloway, who today gave a talk on working memory at the start of the British Science Festival at the University of Surrey in Guildford.

    Video games that involve planning and strategy, such as those from the Total War series, may also train working memory, Dr Alloway believes.

    ”I’m not saying they’re good for your socialisation skills, but they do make you use your working memory,” she said.

    ”You’re keeping track of past actions and mapping the actions you’re going to take.”

    Sudoku also stretched the working memory, as did keeping up with friends on Facebook, she said.

    But the ”instant” nature of texting, Twitter and YouTube was not healthy for working memory.

    ”On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it’s also very succinct,” said Dr Alloway. ”You don’t have to process that information.

    ”Your attention span is being reduced and you’re not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections.”

    She said there was evidence linking TV viewing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) while extensive texting was associated with lower IQ scores.

    © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited

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