The Google Effect: Is Google Making Us Dumber?

The Google Effect: Is Google Making Us Dumber?

Jul 17


NBC Bay Area
July 15, 2011

Original Link

Struggling to remember street names or basic math? Blame Google.

A new study by Columbia University psychologists does just that. A new type of amnesia, called the Google Effect, is impacting how humans remember facts because we rely too much on search engines to remember small details or facts.

The study was published Friday in the journal Science. The full report can be read on the journal’s website.

The study finds that when we know where to find information online, we are less likely to remember it or recall that information. Instead we just rely on a quick Google or Yahoo search.

But the authors are quick to point out that the study does not prove search engines are making us idiots.

“We’re not thoughtless empty-headed people who don’t have memories anymore,” the study’s lead psychologist Betsy Sparrow Sparrow told the San Jose Mercury News. “But we are becoming particularly adept at remembering where to go find things. And that’s kind of amazing.”

Instead the study suggests that human memory is reorganizing how it retrieves information and adjusting to a digital age, where computers can assist how we process information.

Participants in the study often showed that they did not bother to retrieve information when they thought they could easily find it online.

For example, when asked how many countries only have on color in their flag, people did not think about it but instead their brains turned to where on the Internet they could find that information.



  1. Clint Summer

    This study seems to make little sense to me. If I know something, why would I look it up online? If I don’t know something, why not look it up? And who knows – or cares – how many national flags have one color? I haven’t a clue.
    I experience Google as an extension of my own mind (or consciousness) that expands my ability to access information readily. I’m not aware of any detrimental effects, and I use it a lot!

  2. Google works by counting the most popular search terms and using these to prioritize
    search results. The results can only leaad to most of use seeing results with respect to the lowest common denominator. ie. the average idiot

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