The Google Effect
Is our reliance on the Internet making us dumber?
Posted July 16, 2011
When was the last time you forgot something and didn't turn to Google, or some similar search engine, to find the answer? If you're like me, you've probably already visited Google several times today. We all know that with a click of mouse, just about any piece information can be unearthed in a matter of seconds. And because we spend much of our time on computers and smart phones, this information is accessible to us whenever we want it.
But is our reliance on search engines making it harder for us to remember information? This is the question psychologists are trying to answer. According to new research published in the most recent issue of Science, psychologists say they have confirmed what people have long suspected, namely, that the Internet is being used as a personal memory bank for information, a phenomenon referred to as the "Google effect."
The evidence is based on a series of four different experiments that were carried out by Betsy Sparrow and her colleagues at Columbia University. Sparrow and her colleagues tested how people remember information when such information is stored somewhere accessible, like say the Internet. According to these researchers, people are more likely to look for information on the Internet, and when easy to find, they're more likely to remember where they found it, rather than the information itself. On the flip side, information that is less accessible online is more easily remembered.
If you're interested in seeing real life examples of the "Google Effect," click here to see Ken Molestina's of WUSA-9 news interview people on the streets of Washington, DC. Mr. Molestina asked people three trivia questions and then observed how they arrived at their answers.
Tyger Latham, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Washington, DC. He counsels individuals and couples and has a particular interest in sexual trauma, gender development, and LGBT concerns. His blog, Therapy Matters, explores the art and science of psychotherapy.