Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Clouded Memory

Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at
Our Fingertips

Betsy Sparrow, Jenny Liu & Daniel Wegner
Science, forthcoming

Abstract: The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines,
has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can "Google" the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that 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 Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

1 comment:

Dave Hansen said...

And before Google this was called the spouse effect--how many men stop making any effort to remember anyone's name or birthday once they got married? Why waste expensive brain realty on information that your wife will remember for you. You could also call it the cell phone effect--after getting a cell phone that lists all of your contacts, who puts effort towards memorizing other people's phone numbers? I barely know my own cell phone number for crying out loud. Surely, someone has already written up a paper or two on the fact that people will prefer to rely on easily accessible sources of information rather than committing that same information to memory. Is this really worthy of Science? Or is this just an example of the returns of gimmicks in publishing. Or maybe I've mistakenly put Science up on a pedestal. I do recall them publishing a questionable (and gimmicky) study that found that Olympic athletes performed better when wearing red.