The big question: Does social media connectivity make us smarter or dumber?
A few have tried to answer this, starting with the 2008 article in The Atlantic magazine titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?“.
This raised popular attention to the effect of the Internet on our ability to concentrate, reflect and retain information.
Now a group of scientists have tackled whether social networks can help with analytic reasoning, the Sherlock Holmes-like ability to make a conclusion with a given set of facts.
The short answer is yes, social networks can improve analytic reasoning but only superficially.
People copy useful information from their peers, but fail to copy the analytic thought processes needed to arrive at an insight independently.
So social networking teaches us how to copy, but not how to think.
One key to how good the information you get is how connected you are. The bigger your social network the better the understanding.
Dr Iyad Rahwan of the Masdar Institute of Science & Technology in Abu Dhab says: “Our findings identify a limit on the power of social networks in situations that require analytical reasoning.”
The article ‘Analytical reasoning task reveals limits of social learning in networks’ is published today in The Royal Society’s Interface journal.
It’s based on a study of 100 students at the Department of Psychology from the University of Oregon with an average age of just under 20.
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