When thumbing through a Twitter feed, we might be telling ourselves that we're looking for information. Is this interesting enough to read? Is it interesting enough to pass along? Does it say the right thing about us if we pass it along, for our legions of followers to see?
See what happens there? When given the chance to repost information, our brain moves from the information to a series of decisions about reposting it. And a new study in the journal Computers in Human Behavior seems to confirm that retweeting information is negatively affecting your memory of the content and causing comprehension declines even after your Twitter session is over.
The researchers conducted two experiments to test how reposting messages on Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) affects memory. In the first experiment, Chinese students were asked to browse a series of messages. One group was given the option to repost, while another could only surf through the messages. When tested afterward about the messages' content, the repost group had nearly twice as many wrong answers. The content they reposted was recalled even worse than the content they merely read.
In the second experiment, groups were tested on their comprehension of a random article after completing the browsing/reposting tasks. The reposters demonstrated lower performance on the test, and rated themselves as needing more cognitive resources to complete it.
Remember how we asked ourselves all those questions at the beginning, when we thought we were just looking for information? The researchers posit that a cognitive overload is occurring when we're asked to make the decision to repost information. Instead of concentrating on content, we're overwhelming our mind to make a quick decision to post. That leads us to incorrectly understand or remember the content — and seems to affect our cognition even after we're done browsing.