Is the internet changing the human brain?

A Sunday Times article this weekend caught my attention. According to the authors of a new book, iBrain, using the internet  is changing the way the human brain works Рpeople are becoming better at making snap decisions and filtering large amounts of information (which may be valuable in working in a complex, connected matrix organization) but at the cost of some social skills such as picking up facial expressions.

People’s brains (on a relatively small sample) were found to be much more active when searching online rather than when reading a book.

In working with younger participants in our training, we have noticed some less positive differences in people used to browsing for information: reduced attention span and focus.

People who have grown up with search seem to bounce from topic to topic following their interest until they find what they want: it’s an entertaining journey but sometimes an inefficient one. People who grew up looking for things in books and other indexes tend to be more disciplined and focused in searching but may miss out on the breadth and interest of “just browsing”.

I think this will be a big issue for employers, how much are they willing to indulge the “interesting” journeys around the web at work. Will the gains in creativity (perhaps) outweigh the losses on time and expense?

As part of our remote and virtual teams training we run a coaching exercise. Several times recently I have had in-depth coaching sessions with individuals who are new to the world of work and who are finding it challenging to focus and to resist the distractions of the social networking and other activities they used to spend so much (largely unproductive) time on.Vorgan

What is your experience of this?

Source: “ibrain, Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind”, by Gerry Small and Gigi Vorgan, William Morrow Paperbacks; 1st edition (October 6, 2009)

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