Savvy Web Surfers Make Faster Decisions (But Fewer Friends)

Last Updated Oct 27, 2008 2:30 PM EDT

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UCLA neuroscientist Gary Small has found that Web searching and text messaging is changing the way our brains work -- and helping us to filter information and make quick decisions.

In a study of 24 adults, he found that experienced Web surfers' brains showed double the activity in areas controlling decision-making and complex reasoning as the those of fledgling Net users.

It's nothing short of an evolutionary change, according to Small, whose book, "iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind", is all about how technology's affecting the way people's minds develop.

"We are changing the environment. The average young person now spends nine hours a day exposing their brain to technology. Evolution is an advancement from moment to moment and what we are seeing is technology affecting our evolution."
But while technology gives with one hand, it takes with the other. Users can become addicted to surfing and spend so much time scanning the Web for the latest information that they become overstressed. What's more, too great a focus on virtual friendships and too little on real ones can result in poor social skills, with online 'friendship addiction' causing insecurity among users.

Too much time online may leave so-called "digital natives" unable to read human behaviour -- a major problem for anyone in a position of leadership, especially in an age when individual personal development is a management priority.

The people who will have the edge in this not-so-distant future will have technological ability and the social skills in equal measure. Either that or their entire business will be run online.

(Image: Reigh LeBlanc, CC2.0)