It’s not uncommon to finish a day-long binge session of a new Netflix series only to find yourself struggling to remember what happened over the course of the episodes you just watched. It’s sometimes even harder to remember whether you actually liked watching them. A new article from The Atlantic explores this phenomenon of bad memory in the internet age and shows how it’s not just limited to binge-watching. More and more it seems the information we’re reading, watching, and listening to is only taking up temporary residence in our memory banks.
Jared Horvath, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, tells The Atlantic that this is likely linked to the fact that we’ve externalized our memory in electronic devises. We have less incentive to remember a fact we learned or a plot to a movie when we know that information can easily and quickly be recalled on our phone or laptop. “So long as you know where that information is and how to access it, then you don’t really need to recall it,” says Horvath.
This lack of recall is only exacerbated by the practice of binge-watching. Researchers have found that, by consuming content all in one go, whether it be a book or TV show, we’re not allowing the information to ever leave our “working memory.” A study conducted by Horvath found that “right after finishing the show, the binge-watchers scored the highest on the quiz about it, but after 140 days, they scored lower than the weekly viewers.” This style of consumption also seems to have an effect on how feel about shows, since binge-watchers “reported enjoying the show less than did people who watched it once a day, or weekly.”
Alternatively, if consumers plan to take breaks between chapters or discuss episodes with friends before moving on, they’re more likely to reinforce the memory and help it stick. Of course, that might mean getting up from the couch occasionally, so it’s really up to the individual to decide how important their memory really is.
Read The Atlantic’s full report here.