by Mike Masnick
Tue, Aug 18th 2009 1:17pm
There have been a whole series of alarmist studies that get lots of press lately, with titles about how social networks or other technologies are somehow negatively impacting people's brains. Nearly all of these didn't hold up under much scrutiny, as they almost all took things out of context or greatly extrapolated a finding and misinterpreted the results. The latest to add to the pile? A report claiming that texting may be "rewiring young brains." The evidence? Kids who used mobile phones a lot finished a variety of tests much faster, but tended to be "less accurate." That's about it. From there, the guy who did the study concludes that it must be the fact that many mobile phones use "predictive texting" that's training kids to be fast, but inaccurate, assuming something else will come in and fix the mess. Now, perhaps that's true, but it seems like the study doesn't actually show that at all. Also, it's not clear from the report what sort of mistakes are being made. The article talks about spelling mistakes, which are common in texting, but the real question is whether or not that really matters? It may very well depend on context. In a text message, a spelling mistake isn't a big deal. In a resume, it's a different story. But where on that spectrum did these tests land? But more importantly, even if we grant the premise that kids who text a lot are a lot sloppier on certain tests... how do you go from that to immediately concluding that their brains are being wired differently? It sounds a lot more like what they've been trained to do, rather than any serious neurological shift.
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