Category Archives: Psychology

Cognitive Impacts of Social Media and Digital Devices

As an educator that works both in educational technology and teaching psychology, I have a natural infinity for the intersection between technology and psychology. One area of this intersection that interests me is the impact social media has on us cognitively.

Image Licensed from Shutterstock

Image Licensed from Shutterstock

Interesting research exists about the impacts social media has on attention and emotions. In regards to attention, the research tends to focus on the issue of multitasking. What we are actually doing is not multitasking, but task-switching, which is switching from one task to another very quickly. Many people these days have multiple windows open on their computer and have their smartphone nearby while they work. Social media sites are often open on both devices, especially with today’s students. This issue has been the main culprit in the increase in task-switching. Research is showing that our brain doesn’t really have the capacity to multitask or task-switch. There are biological reasons for this. As this article explains,

“Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens.”

Maybe the brain will evolve its capacity to be an efficient multitasking machine like a computer, but until then, which will be way beyond our lifetime, multitasking should be considered a bad habit because of these reasons and the negative impacts they bring on our ability to focus our attention.

In the realm of emotion, fascinating research exists about how constant use of digital devices is affecting our ability to read emotions in the real world. A 2014 study done by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found that sixth graders who went 5 days without access to any screens (mobile, computer, or TV) showed a better ability to read human emotions than peers who continued their digital screen habits. The conclusion was that we, especially kids, can’t learn non-verbal emotional cues through digital devices. We can only learn those through consistent face-to-face interactions with other people.

The recommendations for both of these cognitive impacts wouldn’t be to abandon our digital devices completely. Turning them off when we really need to focus on a task is usually a good approach. Otherwise, finding a balance and using devices in moderation would be the best approach.

This post is cross-posted here.

Learning Dos and Don’ts

I’m about to begin my second year of teaching IB Psychology online with Pamoja Education. As both a technology learning coach and psychology teacher, this experience of teaching a rigorous IB curriculum 100% online has been very good so far. I’m looking forward to Year 2 (IB Diploma courses are two years long) of the experience, especially since we will be tackling the Internal Assessment in the first semester. It’s going to be interesting to see how the process of doing the IA goes with on online class versus a face-to-face class.

In order to help students get in the right frame of mind for learning in this second year of the course, the teachers were asked to write a list of dos and don’t and post it on the Pamoja IB Psychology blog. Here is the list of dos and don’t I wrote for the students. Hyperlinks will take you to psychological research/articles that support that idea.

Image Licensed from Shutterstock

Image Licensed from Shutterstock


  • Submit work on time.
  • Revise frequently (especially Year 1 content).
  • Be organized with your use of time.
  • Keep your course content well organized and connected to learning outcomes.
  • Read, reflect upon, and adapt your learning approaches based on teacher qualitative feedback.
  • Use study strategies based on brain and learning research. See this article for some strategies.
  • Communicate and collaborate with your teacher and peers.
  • Reflect upon and connect your personal life experiences with the content we study.
  • Eliminate distractions while reading, studying, and completing work. Check out this app called Self Control that is very helpful with this (Note: this app is for Macs only. For PCs, check out one of these).
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Eat well, exercise, and drink plenty of water.
  • Make time to do the things you love outside of school.
  • Know that with thoughtful, consistent efforts you can and will succeed


  • Leave work to the last minute.
  • Just focus on the grade/mark earned in your work.
  • Be afraid to ask questions.
  • Multitask (or task switch) while studying.
  • Wait until April to start revising for the exam.
  • Think you are alone in this learning endeavor.

I know lists like these can be narrowed and refined, but these are the broad, essential elements I think will lead students to success. Is there any other essential do or don’t you would add?

The post on the Pamoja IB Psychology blog can be found here.

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