Is Technology Making Us Dumb?

It might be difficult for anyone above the age of 25 to wrap their head around, but social intelligence in our younger generations may be in jeopardy as a result of our growing dependence on technology. The above Harvard Business Review blog post may actually confirm it.

On the scale of “hippie to techie” I fall smack in the middle. I respect technology, but at the same time I am cautious of our growing dependence on it as a society. Speaking from a neuroscience standpoint I have great reason to be cautious. Technology may be undermining several key evolutionary neural responses that are essential for social development and meaningful communication.

Our Brain’s Evolutionary Roots

You might not know it, but the brain that rests in your skull has actually been a work in progress for millions of years. Humans had numerous apelike ancestors that shared brains that were very similar to our own. Over time our brains took shape to what they are today. Amazingly through our millions of years of evolution, language has only occupied a tiny sliver of space on that timeline – around 10,000 years.

To survive, our ancestors relied on social behavior and communication. Since language was not around most of that time our ancestors relied on more physical forms of communication. Millions of years of physical expression and communication have provided our brains with the unique ability to process mannerisms and facial expressions much faster than we process language.

The HBR blog is quick to point out that 55% of conversation is physical. Far and away the most important physical aspect of communication are facial expressions. Facial expression recognition is actually one of the most important factors in meaningful conversation, and is highly correlated with social intelligence.

It’s been said the face is a canvas of emotion. Our faces convey emotions that words simply cannot, and our brains pick up on it at lighting quick speeds. Evolution has defined the facial expressions we make and the way we perceive them. That is why facial expressions are the same across every culture.

could you accurately describe the emotion for each of these faces. believe it or not, many children struggle with this task and that is spelling trouble for communication later in life.

Back to the Future

Technology is not the devil, but it does rob many adults and children of attention and focus that is meant to be used in communication. My best advice is to practice as much  face-to-face, genuine communication as possible. That means turn off your Blackberrys, iPhones, and close the lids on your laptops. Take time to focus on the subtleties of the conversation.

All human cognition and behavior is set in place by the neural pathways in our brain that is unique to our own biology and experiences. That amazing 3lbs of matter is so efficient that if you do not consistently practice a certain behavior in youth it’ll be gone before you know it. Simply said, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” I beg you, please don’t let this happen to your ability to effectively communicate.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s