Is the Internet making us stupid? We’re reading faster, but remembering less.

Fifty percent of Oregonians don’t know Oregon has two U.S. senators.*

Maybe that’s because they read all their news online.

Think about how you read on the Internet.

You see an article, Are office politics destroying your career? and click on the link to read more. While you read, you are interrupted by an Instant Message from the boss that requires an immediate response. It only takes a minute to respond, but when you come back to the article a link to a Dilbert cartoon about work draws your attention. Then some high priority e-mails require attention. You take a few seconds to check on the latest news. Among the news items you see, Check out Emily Ratajkowski’s photos in the 2014 SI Swimsuit Issue, and take a look.

Where was I, you say to yourself.

Did you even get through the above paragraph uninterrupted?

People are reading more text than ever, but recalling less of it because they’re reading online, a Victoria Business School study on reading behavior has found.

The Impact of the Internet on Reading Behaviour, by Associate Professor Val Hooper and Master’s student Channa Herath, explores the online and offline reading behavior of individuals.

In general, online reading was found to have a negative impact on people’s cognition, with concentration, comprehension, absorption and recall rates when engaging with online material all much lower, principally because people are multitasking and scanning when reading online, not focusing.


“Multitasking when reading online was common, with activities such as reading emails, checking news, exploring hyperlinks and viewing video clips providing distractions,”says Dr Hooper.

Many of the study respondents verified the results, saying they were more likely to remember material they had read offline, which was also why they frequently printed material they really wanted to read closely.

Makes you wonder whether digital readers really absorb all the political messages candidates spend so much money on.

For that matter, I wonder how many people reading this online article will finish or remember it.

*2013 Oregon Values & Beliefs Survey. Executed by DHM Research and PolicyInteractive Research; Sponsored by Oregon Health & Science University, The Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Oregon State University.

One thought on “Is the Internet making us stupid? We’re reading faster, but remembering less.

  1. Thank you for including a link of the 2014 SI Swimsuit Issue… now, what I was doing again…? Great post! My brain needs a RAM upgrade, personally.

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