Cognitive Analysis of 'Digital Natives'


As a middle-aged Japanese man (born in the 1970s), the term, 'Digital native', sounds unique but it's not special. When I was a fourth-grade pupil, some of my classmates used to have the Nintendo's TV game, 'Family Computer', or known as 'Fami-com'. My parents refused to purchase Fami-com for me at first, but they bought it for me as a Christmas present. I used to love the Irem's bestseller game, 'Kung-fu Master.'

I remember those days that some educators and adult criticized video games because children didn't play outside the room and because playing video games was physically and mentally unhealthy. They also said kids could not develop interpersonal communication skills and might suffer from myopia and even mental depression. Playing video games looks like living in the virtual world. Therefore, some adults pointed out young people were losing their sense of reality or sense for the real.

Currently, the new generation has appeared: the digital natives. According to the book, 'Digital natives, Digital immigrants,' by Marc Prensky, an American education journalist, digital natives are people who have been familiar with IT tools from the beginning of their lives. They started to use the tools when they were infants or little children. Prensky also called 'Digital immigrants' who did not use the IT tools when they were kids but start to use them when they became adults.

Prensky warns that although more and more young children start to learn as digital natives educators still hang on outdated and even traditional learning styles. He insists that educators should prepare for media-rich learning environment. The Prensky's analysis is still controversial.

There is another interesting analysis of digital native. For instance, Yoshiaki Hashimoto, Professor of the University of Tokyo raised their five characteristics. 1. They don't distinguish meeting new people on the virtual world from the real. 2. They don't care about other people's age and social status. 3. They tend to think the information is for free. 4. They often spread the information through chain e-mails and/or SNS.

It is no doubt that as our the immersion of the digital world would affect our perception and cognition, especially how we process the information, make judgments and decision. It's an interesting research topic how digital natives make judgments and decisions in the real life settings. There may be some differences between digital natives, digital immigrants, and non-digital natives in terms of the thought process of decision making.

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