Think before you click. Constant retweeting can cause memory loss and learning problems, a new research has shown.

While Facebook previously worried about the declining original sharing in its platform, researchers from the Cornell University and Beijing University showed that frequent sharing of information or retweeting causes the brain to undergo cognitive overload that eventually affects memory storage and learning.

Professor of Human Development in Cornell University's College of Human Ecology Qi Wang said simply resorting to sharing what was previously posted diminishes an individual capacity to come up with fresh ideas that eventually translates to poor performance in life.

Wang and his colleagues conducted an experiment with Chinese college students at Beijing University. Two groups of students were given messages from the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Weibo. One group was given two options: repost the message or read the next message, while the other group can only go on to read the next message.

After the task, the study participants were asked to complete an online test to know whether they can recall the content of the messages they have earlier read and/or shared. Wang said the result showed that the group who were allowed to repost messages were found to have poor content recall and comprehension.

The team postulated that the poor performance of those who reposted messages was secondary to cognitive overload. Wang explained that the decision process of having to choose whether to repost or not exhausts cognitive resources.

To seal potential loopholes, the researchers did another experiment. After reading several Weibo messages, the participants were again asked to complete a paper test, which is not related to the previously read messages. They were also asked to answer a Workload Profile Index where the students rated the cognitive stresses of the message-viewing task. The result showed that the repost group manifested higher cognitive strain.

"The sharing leads to cognitive overload, and that interferes with the subsequent task," said Wang. "In real life when students are surfing online and exchanging information and right after that they go to take a test, they may perform worse."

The researchers recommend that web interface should have a design that promotes cognitive processing.

The study was published in Computers in Human Behavior on April 28.

Photo: Esther Vargas | Flickr

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