A recent study commissioned by lastminute.com and neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis suggests that our brains today operate 4 times faster than those of previous generations. In large part this is due to advances in technology and a more hectic pace of life that requires us to process large amounts of information constantly – our brains have simply adapted to the task. So if you’ve ever felt that most modern technology is simply lost on your parents, this may explain why.
Dr Lewis explains the change this way: “Our brains have had to adapt to modern life over the past decade, they’ve developed into a parallel structure rather than a sequential one. This means we can think about, and process, more than one piece of information at any given time rather than just being able to focus on one after another.
“Research strongly suggests that digital experiences have changed the structure of the brain and, in turn, affected the way we think and digest information – it has changed the cognitive process and, as such, caused the brain’s synapses to change to help deal with modern day life.”
The change hasn’t gone unnoticed, however – according to the research, 74% of Britons feel that their lives have become faster paced over the last decade, and 51% say this has made them masters of multitasking. Interestingly, women seem to be adapting more quickly to the realities of modern life, with 62% saying they are expert multitaskers, compared with only 40% of men. Women have long claimed that they are better at doing two things at once – this may finally offer some proof!
66% attribute the change to the rise of modern technology, especially smartphones, tablets, and other devices which keep us constantly connected to the wider world and its demands. 44% of the respondents also blame social media, citing websites like Twitter and Facebook that lure us into a perpetual stream of chatter. However, Dr Lewis notes that it is the rise of the digital world that has led us to become a type of thinker he calls the “Digital Native”.
“People raised within a digital age think differently from previous generations. They develop hypertext minds that leap around. Digital Natives are more visually literate and can process images and things they see more rapidly, compared to their older counterparts. You only need to look at the average scene length of modern day movies to see how fast our brains are working. Forty years ago the average scene length was a good few minutes long and allowed the brain to slowly process the information in sequence. Nowadays, scene lengths are much shorter – this chopping and changing is a great reflection of the how the brain of Digital Natives processes information.”
A significant percentage of people also report that they are eating more quickly than they were two years ago (30%) and that they work and/or type at a faster rate (26%). 12% say they even speak more quickly – everyone is in a hurry to get their message across, which also relates to the rise of text speak.
We’re also leaving things to the last minute more than ever before – from domestic duties and social obligations, to booking flights for your holiday. Click on the interactive diagram below to see the types of things people are leaving to the last minute:
All this hurry does have an impact on our mental health and peace of mind, however – 36% of respondents report feeling panicky about leaving things until the last minute, while 42% are scared they’ll forget things if they don’t do them right away.
What do you tend to leave until the last minute? Vote in our poll below, then compare your response with others!