Claire Jeong is the founder of StudentRDH.com, dentaltoaster.com, smarterDA.com and now https://wakeupmemory.com/
We are all struggling with information overload. With all the gadgets, notifications, and noises around us, our brain is on overload! Claire gives us some science and suggestions to help our little brains not be so overworked~!
Check out her website, dentaltoaster.com for more info and other great CE courses, including one by Michelle!
This TIPisode has been Transcribed for your viewing pleasure:
Claire Jeong: Hello. This is Claire at StudentRDH dental hygiene exam prep, DentalToaster CE courses, and WakeUp memory, a whole system that can help you gain your brain powers. Now, let’s talk today about this phenomenon that is called “information overload.” This is not new at all. This started really when we had access to technology, but there is a special meaning to it. Let me read you the definition by the Cambridge Dictionary. It says that information overload is a situation in which you receive too much information at one time and cannot think about it in a clear way.
Well, did you have those moments when you went to the grocery store if you forgot what your list was? Or you call a friend and you just totally forgot what you were going to say? You see a patient — what was their name? What did they come here for last time? You see a drug name and you completely blank? I saw it in the textbook, I saw it in my CE course, but I really don’t remember. So you pull out your phone and you do a search, right? So information overload came again with technology, which is really, really helpful for us, but also it did some things that are not awesome for our brains.
So let’s talk about what the grocery store was like in 1976. There were about 9 thousand products in a grocery store back then –1976, that’s a long time ago — and now we have about 40, 50 thousand products in 1 grocery store. So that’s about five time [sic] what we used to — our older generation used to have, and I would say with information, it’s the same.
We have not even five times more of the information we used to have but maybe even a million more times information than we used to have. If you look at the Internet, you can find every single book that lives on Earth. If you do a search, you can find any information you need, any images you need. You can find everyone on Earth on the Internet, again. So that created again something called the information overload, which is not always an awesome thing.
So let’s see how our brain doesn’t really like too much information at once. So this is a research, and it shows that people had choices. It was a consumer study, and, in a supermarket, people were given six different samples of jam. When they were given 6 different jams, 30 percent of them purchased 1 of the jars. Now, when they were given 24 choices, only 3 percent ended up purchasing a jar. This just shows that when you have too much coming in — you have 24 choices versus 6 — you cannot make a decision. Your brain cannot process it. Therefore, you can just end up not even doing any decision-making. You just end up just disregarding the information and say goodbye. So this what exactly happened here [sic] in this study that I was telling you about.
Now, it’s time to dive deeper into the brain. Let’s see how it really has an effect on the brain. So, when information comes in, it goes first through this process of Sensory Memory. Everything you hear, you say, others people talking [sic], images — everything is Sensory Memory. From there, it goes to what’s called the working memory or short-term memory. The information gets temporary [sic] stored there, and one important thing to know is that that short-term memory only have about seven bins every minute. You don’t have a million bins available for you to put information. You only have about seven, and they get dumped every minute or so.
So, first up, I’ll do seven [indiscernible 00:09:28] of “Oh, I have to do my email, so — well, I have a test coming in,” to “Oh, I would like to check out this new store,” to thinking “Okay. I hope I remember my patient’s name,” to “Oh, my God. My son had to go to soccer game and I forgot about this.” So all of this can be seven or even more items. But, when we have too much coming at us, when we have too much to remember, then our short-term memory is overloaded, literally. That just means that when there’s too much information, your brain cannot even process it. So that’s one of the effect [sic] information overload has on the brain. We are over our capacity.
This also relates to multitasking. We hear here and there why multitasking is not a good idea, but this is exactly the scientific idea and also relates to our brain power. Our brain just cannot hold everything at the same time. By trying to hold too many things, we are just losing time, we are not focused, and we make a lot of mistakes. Think about just trying to hold seven different plates on your hand. It is not going to work. So this again relates to multitasking, which is not always ideal.
Now, let’s talk about the other effect of information load [sic]. I would say it is stress. We create ourself so much stress because there’ s just too much around us. And there’s another term called “information anxiety.” You can easily guess what that means, right? When we have too much, we are too stressed. And, when we have actually a little bit of stress, a low to moderate dose of stress, our cortisone level gets higher, which actually is good for the brain. We operate in a state that is optimal for us to retain information. We are awake. However, when there’s too much stress, when we have too much coming at us, well, we create some roadblocks.
So our information — the retrieval process — so retrieval process meaning when you get that information from your head and you try to use it in a way, or you try to recall something, is it is not working. And this comes directly from a study that is published in the Psychoneuroendocrinology Journal, “Psychosocial Stress Exposure Impairs Memory Retrieval.” So too much exposure to information just creates more stress, causes information anxiety.
Now, the third effect that information overload has on us is not — for us to not be able to practice information again and again. There’s something called “massing.” That’s when we try to remember everything at once. Let’s sit down in one sitting, six hours, and study. That’s massing.
There’s also something called “spaced repetition.” That’s when you study for a little bit, take a rest, come back. Or you can space it, say, “Day one, day three, day six, month one, I’m going to review the same information.” It’s like going to the gym. When you have a trainer, they don’t train you for ten hours on one group of muscle. They rotate, right? One day you’ll do the bicep, the next day maybe you’ll do the legs, and you keep continuing because your muscles cannot just be that strong, and same for our brain. We cannot just do one thing at a time. But, anyhow, when we have too much information, well, we don’t even allow ourself to get that time — the luxury to actually practice spaced repetition. We just mass — we just group everything in one place and say, “I’m just going to finish this and that’s it because I don’t have time anymore.”
So, again, we looked at how information overload affected our brain, which is it impairs your short-time memory, and it creates anxiety, and also you cannot use this spaced repetition method.
I know I said a lot of negative things about information overload, but I really want to end this on a different note because there’s some things that we can do in order to make our life better, right? This is not the end of the world. And especially when you think about how our young generation are even more struggling with information overload, this is what we have to teach them.
Okay. So the first solution I would like to propose to you is do not multitask, right? I already talked about multitasking, but the conclusion is let’s stop that. Focus at one thing at a time. Write it down if you have to saying, “Right now, I’m going to focus on writing this, my chart, my article, whatever that is.” Do one thing at a time. So, again, don’t try to multitask, okay? Let’s put intention on one thing. Let’s do that well. By doing so, you’re blocking other noise around you, and you’re a lot more efficient by doing so.
The second solution I would like to propose here is to do a brain dump. So, when you have ideas coming at you like, “oh, I want to check this out. I want to read this. I want to eat this,” I’ll just write them down somewhere. Have a little note somewhere. Or on your phone, notes work great. You just write it down. You don’t have to be a library. Don’t [indiscernible 00:14:40]. Nothing. Just literally write everything that comes to your mind because once it is there in your brain-dump list, this is what you’re going to do. This is a third solution that I propose to you. You’re going to take about 30 minute every day to go through that brain-dump list and actually tackle them because it’s written so you know exactly what to do, and you gave yourself some time limit saying, “I only have 30 minutes to finish A, B, C, D, and E, and now I can carry on with my life, with my children, or with my patients.”
So those are the three solutions that I would like to give to you again related to this problem of information overload. It is, first of all, let’s focus at one task at a time, create a brain-dump list every day all the time, and then take 30 minute of your day just to go through everything. You’re plowing through every type of items you had on that list.
I hope this helped a little bit. The whole goal here at WakeUp Memory is really to use our brains the way — the powerful way it is because we lost a lot of our powers by relying on technology, by being overloaded with information, by having anxiety. So I hope you can practice this a little bit more, and when this becomes a habit, I think you will see the results that you don’t have those gaps in your memory anymore. You’re a lot more efficient, confident. And, again, if you have some younger generation in your family or around you, teach them those skills because it’s even more important nowadays to understand how the brain works because technology, our phone, our computer replaced our brain.
So I hope this was helpful today. Again, my name is Claire from StudentRDH, DentalToaster, and WakeUp Memory. Have a great day.
Michelle Strange: We hope you enjoyed this week’s TIPisode. Be sure to reach out to our guest experts and let them know how helpful their tips were. Follow A Tale of Two Hygienists on Facebook, Instagram, and head over to ataleoftwohygienists.com and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also email us at [email protected], and keep listening for more awesome content from your unofficial dental hygiene podcast.