How internet is increasingly taking over human memory

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Source: innovationessence

Original news release was issued by Taylor & Francis.

Almost every day we find our memory engulfed in a vortex of information. Be it phone numbers, scheduled events or a need for particular facts, there is a lot of information to be remembered. Given the imperfections of human memory, some knowledge falls prey to forgetfulness. In the event we need to access some information quickly without too much recalling or when our memory fails, we tend to rely on the vastness and informational depth of internet.

“Memory is changing. Our research shows that as we use the Internet to support and extend our memory we become more reliant on it. Whereas before we might have tried to recall something on our own, now we don’t bother. As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more reliant on it in our daily lives.” said Dr. Benjamin C. Storm, lead author of the study.

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz and University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign finds that our reliance on internet to retrieve answers increases after each use and is affecting our thought processes when it comes to solving problems and learning. The authors of the study, Benjamin Storm, Sean Stone & Aaron Benjamin conducted several experiments to determine our likelihood to reach for a computer or smartphone to answer questions. They divided 60 undergraduate participants into two groups, challenging them to answer some trivia questions. The first group was told to use just their memory while the second group used Google. Subsequently, all participants were then given the option to answer some more easier questions by the method of their choice.

The results revealed that participants who consulted internet for answers were significantly more likely to revert to it for the subsequent questions as opposed to those who relied solely on their heads. Moreover, the participants also spent less time consulting their own memory before commencing the internet search and they were not only more likely to do it again, but have done so twice as fast. Remarkably, 30% of the participants who opted for Google failed to even attempt to rely on their own knowledge.

This research suggests that using a particular method for fact-finding might have a significant influence on future repeat behaviour. It remains to be seen, however, whether reliance on internet differs from any other type of reliance on information sources such as books or people.

Michal Madaras

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