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Forgetting details saved on devices is not a bad thing

By Katie Wright

In 2015, Kaspersky Lab coined the term "digital amnesia" to describe the phenomenon of forgetting information we've saved on our smartphones and other devices, such as notes taken in a meeting.

Amnesia - sounds bad, right? But, actually, it can be a good thing, as a new study from the cybersecurity firm reveals that freeing up intellectual headspace can help us be more creative, leaving room for ideas to spark rather than trying to memorise facts.

Forty-six per cent of those surveyed believe that the more detail they have to remember, the less creative they become, and there are benefits further down the line, as 63% of respondents say that some of their best ideas have come from rediscovering information they had noted down on a device and then forgotten about.

There is a downside, though, because note-taking takes concentration and 44% of the 2,500 people questioned say that making notes on a device during a business meeting, or presentation, can mean they don't really listen to what is being said.

Whether a colleague appears relaxed, or worried, when they report annual sales figures can make all the difference, but in the study, 46% are adamant that the factual accuracy of typed and stored notes is more important than the nuance of conversation.

Plus, there's also the risk of losing those notes - due to human error, a computer glitch, or even hacking - and 13% confessed to losing a digital record and finding themselves unable to remember a word of what was said.

So, it's a bit of a Catch-22: do you sit up and zero in on every word, eyebrow raise and hand gesture, hoping you absorb the ideas, too, or tap away furiously on your tablet, safe in the knowledge you'll have every fact and figure stored away for later?

The research offers several solutions, depending on how familiar you are with a topic to begin with.

"If one is very familiar with what is being said, then being present 'in mind' may be a more effective way to absorb the full bucket of information presented than by noting it on a device - letting our working memory connect the dots in real time," says Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu, lecturer of business psychology at University College London.

"If the information is unfamiliar, or we don't quite grasp it, noting as much as possible down on a digital device means it can be used to review and build our understanding later."

But the ideal scenario is to partner up with someone else and take a two-pronged approach: "Devices and people work best when they work in partnership, one capturing the facts, the other the feelings that give them meaning," says David Emm of Kaspersky. Ultimately, companies need to make devices secure to prevent loss, because that's a digital amnesia that doesn't have an upside.

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