Thinking About Google Makes Us Dumber

Nick Carr reports on a study about Google and memory {his blog}, from the journal Science:

The study, “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips,” was conducted by three psychologists: Betsy Sparrow, of Columbia University; Jenny Liu, of the University of Wisconsin at Madison; and Daniel Wegner, of Harvard. They conducted a series of four experiments aimed at answering this question: Does our awareness of our ability to use Google to quickly find any fact or other bit of information influence the way our brains form memories?

The answer, they discovered, is yes: “when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it.” The findings suggest, the researchers write, “that processes of human memory are adapting to the advent of new computing and communication technology.”

One thought on “Thinking About Google Makes Us Dumber

  1. Something about this study sounds a little silly (or maybe it’s Carr’s “concern” about the implications of the study). If search engines are becoming such a mental crutch, couldn’t the same by said of encyclopedias, dictionaries, and, worst of all, libraries? After all, in earlier times, these devices also stored a far greater amount of information than any one person could hold or retain. And the very fact that they existed allowed people to continuously use them–meaning they didn’t have to memorize everything. What slackers!

    Long story short, sometimes Carr strikes me as too much of a worrywart.

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