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Facebook May Boost Your Memory

Update Date: Feb 25, 2013 01:46 PM EST
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The next time your boss catches you on Facebook, you might want to say that you're improving your memory. A recent study found that Facebook use improved the working memory of older adults by 25 percent.

According to The Atlantic, the study was conducted by graduate student Janelle Wohltmann at the University of Arizona, and examined how social networking might benefit older adults. She used a group of older adults, aged 68 to 91, for her study. Each were either unfamiliar with Facebook or had a profile that they had set up and used less than once a month.

Express reports that she then divided the participants into three groups. The first group, made up of 14 people, received a Facebook tutorial on how to use the social networking site. Then they needed to Friend only people who were in the course with them. Each of the participants needed to post once a day.

The second was a group, also with 14 people, that needed to write posts in an online diary called Penzu. It has no social sharing component. The participants in this group needed to write one post per day for eight weeks, no more than five sentences, to approximate the way that people use Facebook.

The third group of 14 were people who were told that they were on the wait list for the Facebook course.

Prior to the course, all of the participants were administered a series of tests that measured their cognitive ability and other social factors. Then the participants were re-tested at the end of the eight weeks.

The study found that the adults who had spent time on Facebook saw their working memories improve by 25 percent. For example, if they were given a random stream of information, they were better able to focus on the things that the researchers told them were important, like particular numbers or letters. The other two groups saw no such improvement.

Researchers believe that Facebook may help stave off cognitive decline because of a few reasons. Social engagement may help prevent cognitive decline. In addition, Facebook is relatively complex, and keeping track of everyone's statuses, photos and life changes may prove to be a mental workout.

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