DEC 22, 2021 7:23 AM PST

How the Internet Affects How Smart We Think We Are

WRITTEN BY: Alexandria Bass

New research from the University of Texas at Austin on the interface between humans and Google shows Google can give us an inflated ego when it comes to our own memory abilities and intellect.

Adrian Ward, an assistant professor of marketing whose study on this topic was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, examined how people in two groups, one with and one without access to Google, evaluated their own knowledge when completing short quizzes of general knowledge. Those with access to Google rated themselves as having better memories and were more confident in predicting they would score better on future quizzes without the help of the internet.

As stated in the widely-cited 2011 paper on the "Google effect," Google actually makes people less likely to retain new information because they know they will have access to the internet to search it again later.

These studies bring up the interesting notion of how the concept of human memory gets redefined with our ever-changing technology. As Ward put it, the line between the mind and the internet is being blurred into what may one day be thought of as an "Intermind" where the computer is our "neural prosthesis." With Tesla's Elon Musk developing Neuralink's brain implants to help quadriplegics one day use their thoughts to control computers, that day may not be too far away.

But Steven Sloman, a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University, put it in perspective: that the internet and Google are nothing more than a modern version of what's been going on for centuries to shape the concept of memory. Memory is not just this isolated phenomenon contained inside each individual brain from our own solitary efforts. Memory and our knowledge are a communal effort – an extension of ideas we've gotten from family, friends, and other people through verbal or written communication. Google just happens to make our access to this knowledge quicker and less social – and makes us think we're smarter than we are.

Sources: NBC News, Science, CNBC

About the Author
BA in Psychology
Alexandria (Alex) is a freelance science writer with a passion for educating the public on health issues. Her other professional experience includes working as a speech-language pathologist in health care, a research assistant in a food science laboratory, and an English teaching assistant in Spain. In her spare time, Alex enjoys cycling, lap swimming, jogging, and reading.
You May Also Like
APR 29, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Protein That Can Promote Growth & Prevent Atrophy in Muscle
APR 29, 2022
A Protein That Can Promote Growth & Prevent Atrophy in Muscle
When we're active and doing exercise, we can build muscle as well as supply muscle cells with oxygen, maintaining their ...
MAY 08, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Genetic Inversions Seem to be More Common Than We Knew
MAY 08, 2022
Genetic Inversions Seem to be More Common Than We Knew
While most of us tend to carry the same general set of genes, within the billions of bases that make up the human genome ...
MAY 12, 2022
Neuroscience
Secondary Tasks in Interviews Help Identify Liars
MAY 12, 2022
Secondary Tasks in Interviews Help Identify Liars
Lying requires more cognitive energy than telling the truth. Working with this fact, researchers have found that the ext ...
MAY 20, 2022
Technology
Virtual reality & holograms will improve astronaut mental health during long-term space travel
MAY 20, 2022
Virtual reality & holograms will improve astronaut mental health during long-term space travel
Humans will be back on the Moon (Luna) within the next few years, and then on to Mars within the decade afterwards. We a ...
MAY 15, 2022
Health & Medicine
Animal Study Edits Genes to Treat Anxiety and Associated Alcohol Use Disorder
MAY 15, 2022
Animal Study Edits Genes to Treat Anxiety and Associated Alcohol Use Disorder
Adolescence is a time of exploration, but actions during this period of life can have long-term consequences, one of whi ...
MAY 19, 2022
Neuroscience
Daily Cranberry Consumption Boosts Cognitive Function, Reduces Cholesterol
MAY 19, 2022
Daily Cranberry Consumption Boosts Cognitive Function, Reduces Cholesterol
Eating a cup of cranberries per day may improve memory, ward off dementia and reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol in th ...
Loading Comments...