Wednesday, 15 May 2013
10 Ways Facebook Makes You Smarter
Reason: More Facebook Friends Increases Working Intelligence
Right off the bat, it turns out that the more friends you have, the
smarter you're going to be. Specifically, people who have more friends
on Facebook tend to have more developed brain matter in the amygdala.
The amygdala is a section of the brain associated with emotional
responses that ties in with memory function, like remembering faces
In the interests of transparency, the researchers who gathered the
data aren't actually sure whether having more Facebook friends leads
to an increase in density in that region—or if people who have a
larger amygdala are just more likely to have more social contacts. But
there's an easy way to find out—Prof. Geraint Rees, who published the
study, would like to track a group of Facebook users over a longer
period of time to pinpoint whether their brain structures are actually
changing based on their friend network. For now, the safest thing to
do would probably be to send friend requests to everyone your
girlfriend knows—you just can't take chances with your brain.
9) Improved Memory
Reason: Facebook Improves Your Memory
One of the side effects of having a large number of friends is that
now you need to keep up with them all. In real life you probably have
a few dozen acquaintances—co-workers, classmates, drinking buddies—and
maybe half a dozen close friends that you see often. But on Facebook
the average person has over 200 friends—much more than most people do
in real life. Scottish researcher Dr. Tracy Alloway believes that
simply keeping track of those people can considerably increase your
working memory over time.
This is separate from the previous item because it's a phenomenon that
affects everybody—not just people with thousands of friends.
Basically, as long as your friend list on Facebook is larger than what
you would consider your average real-life network, your brain will
need to work harder to effectively process that increase in social
contacts. In the words of Dr. Alloway, it's "engaging your brain and
improving nerve connections," which is just a boring way of saying it
gives you memory superpowers.
8) Rewired Brain
Reason: Social Interaction Rewires Your Brain
Interacting with others to solve problems isn't a human-exclusive
ability—but researchers believe that we do it a whole heck of a lot
more than any other animal, and that might be one of the reasons we've
evolved bigger brains. It's something that's still happening, too. A
team of researchers at the Dublin Trinity College simulated the neural
pathways of two people who had to decide whether to work together to
overcome a challenge or work individually. They found that cooperation
forced the brain to create new pathways as it factored in what the
other person would do. The brain grew and changed to allow room for
more potential outcomes.
According to Luke McNally, the head researcher, this is something your
brain does any time you're interacting with people. Not just on
Facebook of course, but by golly it's heading in that direction—a
separate study looked at the social behavior of young adults from
thirteen different countries, and found that over forty percent would
rather interact online than in real life.
7) Positive Emotions
Reason: Positive Emotions Make You More Creative
There are a lot of negative things that can be said about Facebook,
but the act of keeping in touch with friends and family has an
overwhelmingly positive influence. Even small amounts of positive
reinforcement have been shown to develop a broader style of thinking,
and researchers discovered that individuals who were shown a film
about something positive were able to perform better on word
association and visual processing tests.
Another experiment worked with physicians who were given positive
imagery before being asked to diagnose a case of liver disease. The
physicians who went into the case in a good mood came to their result
more quickly, showed more creative reasoning, and were better at
integrating the case information.
6) Cute Animals
Reason: Cute Animals Help You Concentrate
Facebook is built on a foundation of kitten bricks and puppy mortar,
and there's probably a much better way to say that. The point being,
it's nearly impossible to sign onto Facebook without being
cuddlepunched in the heart by an adorable picture of a tiny kitten in
a teacup, or a puppy and a kitten napping together, or any fluffy
combination of the two. And that's okay, because a study from Japan's
Hiroshima University shows that pictures of cute animals help you
concentrate and perform tasks more effectively.
The study divided students into groups: one group played the game
Operation, and another group was told to find a specific number in a
long sequence of numbers. Additionally, some people were shown
pictures of baby animals, some were shown pictures of adult animals,
and others were shown pictures of food.
The results: students who viewed the kitten and puppy pictures
performed forty-four percent better than when they didn't look at
anything. The other groups—the ones who saw pictures of food and adult
animals—didn't change their performance levels at all.
Reason: Facebook Reinforces Writing Skills
There's a crowd of people somewhere who will swear that every
generation is getting dumber. With our newfangled Twitters and mobile
phones, the bar for intelligent language is dropping like crazy and
our youth are taking the brunt of it. But the truth is, there's a good
chance the current generation is writing more—and better—than just
about any generation for the past fifty years, and it's due to
websites like Facebook.
In 2001, Stanford University began what they call the Stanford Study
of Writing. Over the course of the study, they found that students who
wrote on Facebook fairly often were actually better writers because of
it. The reason is that the students learned how to adapt their writing
style to fit a certain situation. Samples of writing from Facebook,
emails, and school papers all had a subtle difference in tone even
though they came from the same person. The effect on the brain is
similar to switching back and forth between languages.
Reason: Facebook Forces You To Read
Shooting off the previous entry, there's no denying that Facebook is,
above all, a text-based website. While it may not seem like most of
the posts offer anything valuable, the very fact that you read them
affects your brain in thousands of different ways. A recent study
asked participants to read a book while undergoing an fMRI brain scan.
They were told to read with two different mindsets—first as if they
were reading for fun, and second as if they were analyzing the book.
They found that the two different styles of reading caused blood to
flow into different areas of the brain, triggering separate mental
functions. Similarly, the sheer variety of types of posts on Facebook
forces our brains to process them in different ways—we use different
areas of our brains to read about how our co-worker made a chicken
casserole versus reading a link to a political news story.
And it gets crazier: Facebook also develops selective reading skills.
When you scan through the news feed, your brain is picking out words
and phrases, sorting them, and focusing your attention on the most
interesting pieces of information.
3) Developed Reasoning
Reason: Arguments Develop Your Logical Reasoning
Let's be serious here for a second—the real purpose of Facebook (and
the internet in general) is to make it easier to argue with anybody
you want—and your brain absolutely loves it. Behavioral researchers
are suggesting that the concept of arguing—of proving your own
viewpoint to be superior over another's—is one of the foundations of
human intelligence. And the mental process of developing an argument
is like jumping jacks for your brain.
One of the ideas of argumentation theory is that arguing forces you to
think abstractly in order to develop a logical, persuasive dialogue.
You're not only using your memory to recall the right words—you're
taking another step by shaping the context of those words to match
And while arguing in real life eventually breaks down into "You're an
idiot." No, you're an idiot," the mere fact that you have time to
think through your argument online makes you more likely to plan it
out and follow through—all of which requires reasoning skills and
Reason: Facebook Is A Pool Of Crystallized Intelligence
Cultural intelligence, political intelligence, social
intelligence—none of those really have anything to do with the
mechanical way your brain works. But they do mesh together into a
general understanding of the world, something known as crystallized
intelligence. Humans are believed to have two types of intelligence:
fluid and crystallized. Fluid is your ability to solve problems and
use logic. Crystallized is your store of knowledge, like your
vocabulary, your knowledge of history and current events, etc.
Think back, where was the first time you heard about or watched the
Kony 2012 video a few months ago? For many of you, it was on Facebook.
Where do you get updates about your favorite band, or find out about
new government legislation, or find sports scores? Whether or not you
use Facebook, the site as a whole is a pool of information and
knowledge. Some pieces your brain filters out, other pieces are stored
away for later. There are other places to find that information, but
Facebook is a drip feed of constant and ever-changing knowledge, if
you choose to look at it that way.
Reason: Facebook Games Boost Critical Thinking And Creativity
The problem with video games is that responsible people think they're
stupid. No employer will hire you if you list "1,300 hours of gameplay
logged on Call of Duty" as one of your qualifications, because for
some reason an adult playing video games is taboo, like shouting
"Voldemort," at wizarding school. But we all do it, because there's no
other way to account for the 48.7 million people who play ChefVille
each month, not to mention the hundreds of other Facebook games.
But don't worry—it might be one of the best things for your brain.
Studies are showing that playing video games—especially puzzle-type
games—teaches you to solve problems creatively by creating a scenario
that chemically rewards your brain for critical thinking.
Games like Biotronic and BeJewled develop spacial reasoning and
pattern recognition, while games like FarmVille and CityVille help
attention span and goal management by creating a long-term environment
that reflects your earlier decisions. Everything that creates a
challenge strengthens your brain by forcing it to work out something
new and unexpected. So log on and go craft mines or something, I don't
know. You're the genius. But before you do: like the Listverse
Facebook page and double your chances of getting smarter!