Her study’s findings imply that visual distractions — like the ones caused by the flash of a “new message” alert or a news update — might distort a person’s memory of an event or interaction without that person realizing it. “Even when you think you’re focused on a task and performing it, having a distractor that captures your attention very briefly can fundamentally change what you thought you were perceiving,” she says.

“Consumers who knew they had received a targeted ad reported being more interested in the advertised product, and even changed their self-perceptions to be more in line with what the ad implied about them.”

Another recent study from Ohio State suggests the effects of technology go beyond influencing mood and memory; they may reshape our self-perception. The Ohio State researchers examined how viewing “behaviorally targeted” internet ads can impact the way a person thinks about themselves. “Behavioral targeting uses information about what you do online — not just what you’ve bought, but what you’ve clicked on and what websites you’ve visited

 “For example, in one of our studies, receiving a behaviorally targeted ad for a green [eco-friendly] product made consumers feel like they had stronger green consumption values.”

Messing with a user’s mood or memory is one thing. If online advertisements have the power to reshape a person’s image of themselves, as that last Ohio State study suggests, it may be time to stop thinking about the internet as something people use, and start thinking of it as a new environment in which human beings exist and adapt, for better or worse.