Professor Michael Shayer of King’s College London recently repeated a study first done in 1976 to test the problem-solving abilities of 800 secondary pupils. He found they’ve got better at quick-fire descriptive responses, but worse at more complex reasoning.
Text message culture is widely blamed for this ‘dumbing down’, but let’s not accuse the medium — telegrams never made us stupid. What matters is the writer’s intent. More than 350 years ago, Blaise Pascal felt compelled to apologise for a long letter because he hadn’t time to make it short. Being concise is hard; it takes effort to pack a tight snowball.
Texts, Twitter and other messaging services force the writer to be brief, so we inevitably use them for speed. But what happens, what has always happened, when you ration the words of a writer with creative intentions? You get poetry. … Read More »