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Internet slowly taking over human memory
October 6, 2016, 1:38 pm
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Researchers at the University of California say that our increasing reliance on the internet and the ease of access to the vast resource available online is affecting our thought processes for problem solving, recall and learning. We might think that memory is something that happens in the head but increasingly it is becoming something that happens with the help of agents outside the head. The study divided participants into two groups to answer some challenging trivia questions —one group used just their memory, the other used Google. Participants were then given the option of answering subsequent easier questions by the method of their choice.

The results revealed that participants who previously used the internet to gain information were significantly more likely to revert to Google for subsequent questions than those who relied on memory. Participants also spent less time consulting their own memory before reaching for the internet; they were not only more likely to do it again, they were likely to do it much more quickly. Remarkably 30 percent of participants who previously consulted the internet failed to even attempt to answer a single simple question from memory.

This research suggests that using a certain method for fact finding has a marked influence on the probability of future repeat behavior. Time will tell if this pattern will have any far reaching impacts on human memory or our reliance on other information sources. Certainly the internet is more comprehensive, dependable and on the whole faster than the imperfections of human memory, borne out by the more accurate answers from participants in the internet condition during this research. With a world of information a Google search away on a smartphone, the need to remember trivial facts, figures, and numbers is inevitably becoming less necessary to function in everyday life.

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