Google is destroying your memory

Well, OK, maybe not totally destroying it, just making it unnecessary to rely on friends, libraries, books, notes, and other forms of “transactive memory” (external systems), thanks to the rise of Internet search engines, Wikipedia, and other Internet tools.

So says Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow, co-author of an article in Science Express.

“Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganizing the way we remember things,” she said. “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.”

Creative forgetting
Sparrow’s research reveals that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet. We are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. And we are better able to remember where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself.

But what is the quality of what we’re finding with these random crowdsourced tools? Maybe it’s time to take another look at The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains? Do we have any way to know what’s real on the Internet any more? Speaking of, why are schools still forcing students to memorize if they have all these great tools?

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