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Running head: THE INTERNET 1

Effects of the Use of Internet to Human Brains

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Firth, J., Torous, J., Stubbs, B., Firth, J. A., Steiner, G. Z., Smith, L., . . . Gleeson, J. (2019). The

“online brain”: how the Internet may be changing our cognition. Retrieved from World

Psychiatry: https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20617

The article “The “online brain”: how the Internet may be changing our cognition” by

Filth et al. published at Wiley Online Library in 2019 looks at the possible effects of internet to

the structure and functioning of the brain. The paper looks at various hypotheses on the role the

internet plays in changing cognition in human brains. Some of the aspects discussed in this

article include attention capabilities, memory processes and social cognition. According to the

writers, internet applications in the modern world have increased significantly over the last few

years. It has enhanced various life aspects such as access to information, communication and

connections. Despite comprehensively looking at the effects of the internet on the brains, the

authors did not look at the impacts of specific platforms. The findings of the study are also

explained in other articles such as “3 Ways the Internet Is Changing the Way You Think” by

Maria Kennedy and “The internet: is it changing the way we think?” by John Naughton.

Therefore, the internet enhances changes in the brain by alterations that are acute and sustained

in cognition areas.

The article contains several hypotheses, which also double as the core topics being

examined. One, the authors look at the likelihood of the online world having a substantial impact

on the attentional capabilities of human beings. Two, they also hypothesize that memory

processes are vastly affected by the unique features that the online world has presented. Another

hypothesis that emerges from the article is that social cognition is also impacted by this online

landscape. To determine whether these hypotheses make sense, the authors embrace a

methodology of exploring various articles in a literature inquiry to bring together some of the
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findings that authors have previous discussed regarding the topic. Using this methodology of

critical literature exploration, Firth et al. (2019) come up to several findings and conclusions,

most of which will be discussed herein.

Firth et al. (2019) find that one of the impacts of the internet on human brains is how it

views and digests information accessed on various platforms. According to the results drawn

from their study, enhanced access to information is one of the benefits that the utilization of the

internet platforms has on the people (Firth, et al., 2019). It grants access to a lot of information

which contains facts and other opinion driven ideas without having to research books, articles

and other physical studying materials. The authors explain that this has resulted in the replacing

the use of individual human memory systems. The internet has replaced these systems hence

employed to carry out their functions. An example is a semantic memory which refers to the

system in the brain tasked with the responsibility of dealing with facts. To understand the extent

of the impacts, the authors looked at research carried out by Sparrow et al. which explained how

gathering information via the internet affected typical memory processes. The writers concluded

that easy access to information on the internet made it difficult for people to remember facts that

they have read. Instead, their brains focus on retaining where the facts and information were

retrieved. This shows that people are relying on the internet to retrieve information. Kennedy, in

her article, has supported this claim. According to her, there is no need for memorizing facts and

other relevant information since we can access it whenever we want it (Kennedy, 2019). She

further explains that all that is needed is to remember the sites that the information was retrieved.

Maria concludes by explaining that the brainpower should be utilized to store vital information

that cannot be accessed online such as creativity. John, in his article, further expounds on the
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idea by looking at Carr’s argument that there is no need to memorize detailed information since

it is easier to retrieve it online (Naughton, 2010).

Another finding explained in the article is the cognitive effects of the internet since it

tends to grab the attention of the users. Most of the time, the internet tend to grab our attention

and the act itself has effects on our thinking processes hence affecting the brains (Firth et al.,

2019). This affects the attention capabilities of people. Notifications, hyperlinks and prompts

originating from the online platforms tend to draw the attention of the users hence making them

leave what they were initially doing and look at them. It also grants us the ability to interact with

a different form of digital media at a time which enhances the ability of the human brain to

interact simultaneously with multiple inputs. However, the interaction can only be achieved to

shallow levels. The connections are referred to as media multi-tasking and often cause specific

patterns in the behavior of the people. The authors utilize the findings of Ophir et al. which

aimed at understanding how cognitive capacities are affected by media multitasking. The writers

concluded by indicating that multi-tasking on internet platforms do not enhance multitasking I

other activities. They further explained that it has adverse effects on the cognitive capacity since

it reduces the people’s ability to ignore distractions hailing from online platforms. This is

explained by John in his article when he looks at the narration by Carr (Naughton, 2010). He

explains that it was tough for him to concentrate on carrying out activities such as reading a

novel. This was because he was distracted by the need to visit the online platforms. Maria, in her

article, supports this finding by explaining that the use of internet makes it difficult to

concentrate and focus while reading a book or novel since there is the developing of digital

brains (Kennedy, 2019).


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Another critical finding is that the Internet also affects the brain’s ability to retain

information by the users. According to the article, a person who uses information retrieved from

the internet tends to retain a relatively smaller portion of it as compared to those that extract it

from books (Firth et al., 2019). To demonstrate this, the researchers looked at a scenario whereby

there were young people required to study a given topic. Some of them had to apply books and

other physical sources while the rest utilized online platforms. The results proved that those who

studied books were able to retain more information in their brains while the rest retained only a

small portion. Therefore, the use of the internet had adverse effects on the offline memory. The

authors further argued that the use of internet makes people tend to focus on the aspects that can

be retrieved hence fails to remember what they studied in future and instead focused on

understanding where to retrieve the information. Maria supports this finding by explaining that

the internet trains a brain to skim through information (Kennedy, 2019). This is because one only

aspires to look at the basic facts and information. John further explains the idea by looking at an

explanation by Geoff Dyer, a writer (Naughton, 2010). The writer explains that now he does not

have to read large books in search of specific details. Instead, he has to gather the information by

just skimming through online platforms.

The article concludes that the use of internet has effects on the brains at its cognitive

ability. The author explains that the internet is an essential source of information and makes it

easy to retrieve facts. To demonstrate the impacts of the internet on people’s brain, the writers

looked at some of the researches carried by other people in reference to the specific effects. One

of the impacts explained is that the mind tends to understand where to retrieve particular

information rather than understanding the content itself. It also affects the ability of the brains to

concentrate and pay attention as a result of media multi-tasking which in turn has adverse effects
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on the cognitive capabilities. The Internet has also reduced the ability of the brain to retain

information for the users. These findings are supported by Maria Kennedy and John Naughton in

their articles. Therefore, the internet has effects on the brains and cognitive abilities of people.
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References

Firth, J., Torous, J., Stubbs, B., Firth, J. A., Steiner, G. Z., Smith, L., . . . Gleeson, J. (2019). The

“online brain”: how the Internet may be changing our cognition. Retrieved from World

Psychiatry: https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20617

Kennedy, M. (2019). 3 Ways The Internet Is Changing The Way You Think. Retrieved from Finer

Minds: https://www.finerminds.com/lifestyle/3-ways-internet-is-changing-the-way-you-

think/

Naughton, J. (2010). The internet: is it changing the way we think? Retrieved from The

Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2010/aug/15/internet-brain-

neuroscience-debate