This may sound like a no-brainer, but a couple of new studies report that people suffer a drop in their thinking ability when they experience information overload.
One recent study at Kansas State University reported that the MTV-inspired scrolling tickers and headlines on television screens reduced the ability of people to remember information by 10 percentage points.
Another study reported that people who were bombarded by email and phone calls suffered an IQ drop of 10 points – double the drop in IQ that has been attributed to marijuana.
The smarter solution? Strip away the distractions and aim for simplicity.
Richard E. Mayer’s research in multimedia learning reports that when interesting but irrelevant words and pictures were removed from a multimedia presentation, people experienced a median 189 percent improvement in remembering the information.
Although we currently appear to be a culture on its way to dumbing down, the smart money will go next to an inevitable counter-trend toward simplicity.
An interesting thought from KSU professor Tom Grimes:
"The human brain is today as it was in the 1880s, the 1580s and in the time of the Greeks and Romans. It has not changed. We are no better able to parallel process conflicting information than we were 300 years ago."
If the brain has not changed, it is we who have mistakenly assumed that we gain something from "razzle dazzle". Instead, we need to accept that there’s "no there there" beneath the glitz, and that if we simplify we only have our intelligence to gain (back).
Tip: Simple is smart, overload is dumb.