Search Engines Are Affecting The Way We Use Our Memory

August 11, 2011 7:25 pm 0 comments

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Search Engines Changing the Way We Think

There been quite a bit of debate surrounding new research that’s coming out of the university of Columbia regarding how the Internet search engines is effecting  how our brains remembers things.Never before has our species been able to access so much information on almost any subject almost instantly,  this wealth of knowledge and the knowledge we can access this at any time is it appears making us remember less.

The head psychologist leading the study Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University claims  that people are more inclined to forget facts , information that they can easily find on the internet. Betsy Sparrow stated,

“Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganizing the way we remember things,”

“Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.”

In her recent white paper titled “ Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips”  the research that help create this paper was split into a series of studies.

In the first test subjects who comprised of forty six Harvard University undergraduates.were asked a series of true or false questions such as ”An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain ?,”  When the words were of the question were shown in the colors of the major search engines such as Google or Yahoo the subjects response was much slower, indicating that they were thinking of searching the web for answers.

A new group of sixty subjects was used for the next test , researchers gave the sixty subjects forty statements and told them to type up the information on a pc, half were told that the information would be saved the other half were told that the information would be deleted. The half that were informed the data would be saved struggled to remember the statements, the half that had been told the data would be erased performed much better at recalling the data.

The third test was conducted on twenty eight students from the University of Columbia, the subjects were asked a series of trivia questions and note taking was allowed. Half of the test subjects were told the information would be saved on 1 of 6 folders on a PC,  these test subjects struggled to remember the information, the other test subjects who had been told the information was being deleted found it far easier to remember the information.

The final experiment was also conducted on Columbia students they were given the same trivia questions and asked to make notes they were all informed that the information would be stored in various files with names such as “Data , Names , Facts” the test subjects remembered the names of the folders more than they remembered the information itself.

The findings of the tests seemed to point to the fact that  “there is no doubt that our strategies are shifting in learning,” Roddy Roediger, a psychologist based at Washington University, shifting more towards the . “Why remember something if I know I can look it up again? In some sense, with Google and other search engines, we can offload some of our memory demands onto machines.”

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