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Overcoming the Infodemic

A woman holding her head and looking at her phone in exasperation.

Dr. Sandi Chapman

Dear friends,Are you taking in too much information? We often think that the more we consume, the smarter we will be. But did you know that the very habit of information intake is toxic to your brain health?We are living through more than a health pandemic; we are also suffering from an infodemic – an excessive amount of information about any given issue that makes a solution or decision more difficult to achieve.Our brain reacts to information overload much like a circuit blowing a fuse, essentially shutting down effective brain operations in certain brain systems:
  • our decision-making – especially about important things – degrades
  • our memory becomes less dependable, the more media sources we peruse
  • our thinking becomes shallower – we have difficulty thinking what the information means at a more general level of application
  • we have difficulty reflecting on the reliability of information we are ingesting
  • increased levels of cortisol cause our anxiety and stress levels to rise
Who is making us take in so much information? As it turns out, we can be our brain’s worst enemy. Take some proactive steps to address your personal infodemic symptoms. Try this simple technique: filter and focus.
  • Filter out 95 – 99% of the information that comes your way. Research shows smart people are effective blockers of the unimportant, irrelevant and misinformation. They develop skills to actively decipher what to ignore and block from the outset. Limit your intake of news to one or two times a day, restrain your tendency to continue to surf the web, unsubscribe, and turn off notifications on your devices.
  • Focus deeply and broadly on one or two vetted sources of information on a topic of interest; zoom out beyond the concrete words and consider what principles you can glean from the content; identify aspects you are uncertain about or may disagree with; reflect on how reliable the source is, and focus on how this modifies your own perspective.
Having open access to so much information can be a boon for our modern society. To make sure we do not blow a fuse or break a brain circuit, we must become smart info-consumers. Our brain health and life decisions depend on it.
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P.S. Go to LinkedIn and Facebook to view and share my posts with friends and colleagues – and let me know how these suggestions are working for you in your own BrainHealth journey! Coming next week: aerobics for the brain.See more messages from our Chief Director, Sandra Chapman, PhD.

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Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

Chief Director Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-Leader, The BrainHealth Project

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