20 things that are making us dumber
Video: Things that make you dumber
Back in 2008, Nicholas Carr wrote an article for “The Atlantic” that sparked a national debate that rages even now. The title of the article: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” So...is it? Short answer: yes and no. In July 2011, scientists at Columbia University announced that, thanks to Google, we now store less information in our minds. However, we're also better at remembering where information is stored, so your answer really depends on which skill set you value most.
According to scientists at UCLA, steady sugar consumption "slows the brain, hampering memory and learning" in as little as six weeks. And, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Americans consume 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup each year. You're still smart enough to do that math, right?
Bing: Sugar and your memory
Well, technically it's not smartphones that are making us dumber. It's the thing the smartphone enables, which is chronic, relentless multi-tasking. Dr. Sandy Chapman, chief director for the Center for Brain Health in Dallas, says, "It's really keeping us at this distracted level, so everything that we're thinking about tends to be more quick, more minute, less synthesized, and that's what's making us dumber."
'Here comes Honey Boo Boo'
Everyone knows that you are what you eat, but did you know that you're only as smart as the television you watch? An Austrian researcher recently proved that subjects performed worse on knowledge tests after reading a story about a stupid person, thus proving that the media we consume directly affects our behavior. So unless you're watching reality TV shows about Nobel Prize winners, chances are good that your favorite guilty pleasures are making you dumber.
Household violence doesn't just damage us emotionally—it actually lowers our IQs. A Boston University study of more than 1,000 pairs of twins showed that children exposed to high levels of domestic violence had IQs that were, on average, 8 points lower than unexposed children.
Make your world a little smarter by searching for a good local charity that helps communities recover from domestic violence.
Chewing gum may double your pleasure but it cuts your smarts by half (give or take). A 2011 study at Cardiff University in Wales determined that chewing gum "impairs short-term memory for both item order and item identity." Chew on that, smartypants.
Two people go for a walk. One walks through a park, one walks down a busy urban sidewalk. At the end of the walk, who's smarter? Turns out, it's the person who walked through the park. In a real-life, large-scale version of this experiment at the University of Michigan, people who walked through the city had worse memory, poor attention and learning problems. In fact, just looking at a picture of a city produced the same effect.
Maybe it’s not such a crazy idea to pack it up and move to the country, after all.
Jet-setters, take note: when scientists at Cal Berkeley simulated jet lag in hamsters, they found that the hamsters produced 50 percent fewer neurons than normal and took longer to solve simple problems.
How do you simulate jet lag in a hamster? That’s another story for another day.
Excess carbon dioxide is doing more than wrecking our climate—it's also making us stupid. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Livermore slowly increased the amount of CO2 in a poorly ventilated room while college students attempted to solve a series of complex, strategic problems. Not surprisingly, the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more mistakes the test subjects made. So the next time you're feeling slow, crack a window.
Not one but TWO wide-ranging studies* have proved conclusively that spanking children lowers their IQs and gives them post-traumatic stress disorder. "The more spanking, the slower the development of the child's mental ability. But even small amounts of spanking make a difference," says Murray Straus, professor at the University of New Hampshire and author of one of the studies.
*University of New Hampshire in 2009 and University of Manitoba in 2012.