There was once a time when people remembered all sorts of minute facts about things that could help them later in life. That may all be changing now, thanks to the internet.
A report published in Science suggests that people rely increasingly on the internet to store those facts for them, and the focus on mental activity today is not to retrieve the facts themselves but rather, to know where to find the answers online. People, researchers claim, “are using the Internet as a personal memory bank,” for “external memory,” in a process that they call the “Google Effect.”
The study was based on four distinct experiments conducted by Betsy Sparrow at Columbia University, which analyzed how people retrieve information. Contrary to popular tweets and headlines, it did not find that people are dumber, but rather that the strategies they devise for retrieving information have changed, with a greater focus on machine retrieval.