Sending thoughts from the brain to our inbox

For most people, it may not come as a surprise that the modern day lifestyle of juggling studies, work, family, and the constant availability due to social media may not always be so beneficial for the functioning of our brain. Nowadays we are often on the run, and we feel busier than ever before1. Along those lines, the amount of perceived daily stress is steadily increasing2, which in turn may negatively impact our mental performance. When we are stressed, we tend to have poorer memory and we become more forgetful3. Even in non-stressful situations there are many thoughts throughout out the day that slip our minds, particularly when when we are busy doing everyone’s favourite thing –  multitasking4. By capturing the thoughts we find valuable and useful, we can do both ourselves and our brain a favour. With a few strokes, Braintoss makes a note by typing, speaking or taking a photo of what we’d like to remember, and sends that note straight to our inbox.

Here some possible ways of how Braintoss might help our brain:

Minimizes the time cost of task-switching

The simple and goal-directed design makes the app not only easy to learn and remember how to use, but it enables the action of making a note of to-be-remembered thought/image within a matter of seconds. Carrying out this action within a very short time frame could reduce the risk of losing track of what we were distracted from, allowing us to quickly switch back to the task at hand with a secure sense that our thought will not be forgotten.

Complements our limited working memory

It’s our working memory that contains and processes the information that our attention is allocated towards, and is highly important for when we’re planning or solving a problem. In contrast to our generally unlimited long-term memory, our working memory can store very limited amounts of information for only a few seconds. As a result, information will not be remembered if it’s not rehearsed, or paid attention to. The main reason for the rapid forgetting is that the information is not actively maintained in the working memory long enough for it to get transferred to the long-term memory, with the most common causes being interrupted by an internal distraction (e.g. another thought) or an external distraction (e.g. someone calling your name). Conditions such as ADHD or dementia often lead to impairments in this system6,7, as well as many other factors that may negatively influence working memory performance, such as stress8 and poor sleep9.

So when we’re on the go, or when a brilliant idea pops up right in the middle of something that requires our focus and attention, Braintoss can help by quickly creating a reminder of the thought and allow for it to be attended to at a later point when we have the time.

Reduces cognitive load

Because of our limited attentional resources and working memory capacity, we are only able to pay attention to and actively maintain a small amount of information at a time. As a consequence, the more things we try to remember or do simultaneously, the more we increase the demands that are placed on our working memory (known as cognitive load). Similar to the negative effects of multitasking on task performance, trying to remember a thought or an intended action whilst already being busy with another task has shown to lower our cognitive performance as well10. This means that the more information we try to keep in our working memory, the less cognitive resources we have to allocate towards other tasks. Instead, sending the to-be-remembered thought to the inbox can help to reduce the cognitive load, and make it easier to pay full attention to what we are currently busy with.

Braintoss also reduces the cognitive load by collecting the notes in one reliable place, our inbox, which most people have the habit to check already (and perhaps a bit too often). In fact, a recent study involving a small group of white-collar workers demonstrated an average checking rate of 77 times per day11. As we have the tendency to keep a close eye on our inbox we are not only more likely to see the note, but also experience less of the demand of recalling and creating an additional habit of checking reminders stored in dispersed locations.

Provides support for prospective memory

Prospective memory refers to the ability to remember and perform an intended future action12. In other words, prospective memory involves all the things we plan on doing (our so called “to-do’s”), which is an essential part of daily life. Prospective memory is divided into several phases, with the first phase being remembering the future intention or thought which is often related to an action, such as “remember to post an envelope”. The following phases consist of remembering the intended action in the right situation or at an appropriate time in order to carry it out successfully, with a time interval of minutes or even days between forming the intention and remembering it. Contrary to recalling facts and skills we’ve learned in the past (known as retrospective memory), our prospective memory has shown to be more prone to failures, especially at an older age and in individuals with dementia13.
Using Braintoss to quickly capture the thought could aid in retrieving the intended action in that the note prompts us every time we check our inbox. As the Braintoss email can provide the location of where the note was sent from, it also gives an additional reminder of the context in which the note was made, which could be useful when the note alone is not completely successful in triggering our memory.

By Linnea Thomander

 

References

1. Vercruyssen, A., Roose, H., Carton, A., & Van de Putte, B., (2013). The effect of busyness on survey participation: being too busy or feeling too busy to cooperate?. International Journal of Social Research Methodology (Published online: 28 May 2013).
2. American Psychological Association (2015). Stress in America. Retrieved at: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/impact-of-discrimination.pdf
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7. Saunders, N. L., & Summers, M. J. (2011). Longitudinal deficits to attention, executive, and working memory in subtypes of mild cognitive impairment. Neuropsychology, 25(2), 237.
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9. Van Dongen, H. P., Maislin, G., Mullington, J. M., & Dinges, D. F. (2003). The cumulative cost of additional wakefulness: dose-response effects on neurobehavioral functions and sleep physiology from chronic sleep restriction and total sleep deprivation. SLEEP-NEW YORK THEN WESTCHESTER-, 26(2), 117-129.
10. Smith, G., Del Sala, S., Logie, R. H., & Maylor, E. A. (2000). Prospective and retrospective memory in normal ageing and dementia: A questionnaire study. Memory, 8(5), 311-321.
11. Mark, G., Iqbal, S. T., Czerwinski, M., Johns, P., Sano, A., & Lutchyn, Y. (2016). Email duration, batching and self-interruption: Patterns of email use on productivity and stress. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1717-1728). ACM.
12. Ellis, J., & Kvavilashvili, L. (2000). Prospective memory in 2000: Past, present, and future directions. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14(7), S1-S9.
13. Huppert, F. A., Johnson, T., & Nickson, J. (2000). High prevalence of prospective memory impairment in the elderly and in early‐stage dementia: Findings from a population‐based study. Applied cognitive psychology, 14(7).