Is the Internet Ruining our Memory?

A recent study from Columbia University has opened our eyes to how dependent society has become on search engines, especially Google. People seem to remember things differently now that there is such an abundance of information available to use on the Internet at a moment’s notice.

It was concluded that we are less likely to remember certain information if we know that we are able to find it somewhere else. Columbia University Psychologist, Betsy Sparrow, performed the study and will be publishing her research in Science titled “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequence of Having Information at Our Fingertips.”

“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,” says Sparrow.

Her research was carried out during four studies, in which different methods were used while asking participants trivia questions. Their memories were tested when they were informed that they would have the answer available for them to view later and when they would not.

While it may seem negative that we are no longer remembering simple information like we did a decade ago, Sparrow believes that with this research we will have the potential to change our teaching and learning methods in all fields to adapt to our altered ways of remembering. “Perhaps those who teach in any context, be they college professors, doctors or business leaders, will become increasingly focused on imparting greater understanding of ideas and ways of thinking, and less focused on information,” said Sparrow.

How often do you rely on search engines? Read more about the study here.

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