Psychology lessons never fail to be engaging and mentally stimulating, providing us with plenty of surprising insights on the way the human mind works. This week’s class was no exception, especially as it was one during which a debate regarding the effects of technology on cognition were discussed. Being a discussion that was highly anticipated by both Ms. Patricia and the students, the class was held with zeal and excitement up till the very end of the lesson.
Originally intended to have been held the previous week, the debate was postponed due to the uncertainty many had regarding the required preparation – however, this week, the students returned with a newfound clarity, ready to expand upon their collective repertoire of knowledge. For the debate, the class was divided into two groups – one in favour of the claim that technology harms cognitive processing, and the other favouring the claim that technology is but a hinderance. I was a part of the team that agreed with the latter option.
To prepare a list of points for the debate, we were researched studies proving the positive and negative effects of technology on cognitive processes such as memory and thinking and decision-making, and added that to a sheet for organisation. On the day itself, all of us gathered in the classroom, seating ourselves according to the strength of our stances – those who agreed strongly with the claim seated themselves towards the end of the class, while those not as firmly in favour sat towards the centre. Then, the debate commenced. I stood at the board, green marker in hand, hurriedly jotting down the numerous arguments that each group, each backed up with compelling pieces of evidence.
A noteworthy example – among others – was the evidence for technology hindering the rehearsal and retention of information when it came to memory, which was borrowed from Sparrow et al (2011). This study involved dividing participants into two groups, with both having to type forty random trivia facts into a computer, with one group being told that the computer would store what they typed, while the other was told that it would not do so. Half of each group was then told to memorise the information, while the other half was not. Those who were told that the computer would erase the information remembered significantly more (30%) than those told it would store the information (20%), thus proving that an increasing reliance on technology may lead to cognitive offload.
After the debate concluded, the class gathered around to discuss their research and receive some much-needed feedback not only on the presentation of their evidence, but also ERQs and SAQs written for practice – both of which will be key components of our final exam.
Overall, this class was one that indeed broadened our horizons considerably, not only teaching us how to properly present ourselves in a debate, but also sparking our curiosity when it came to exploring the link between cognition and the usage of technology. Needless to say, I will greatly look forward to any future debates that may be taking place in class!
– Sahira Kochhar, DP 1