Google searches and the internet are changing the way we remember things — and not necessarily for the better.
Those are the findings of a report published in this week in Science magazine, based on two studies which tested participants’ ability to remember facts.
In one trial, university students were asked to type notes on pieces of trivia — for instance, “an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain” — and told their notes would be saved in one of many different folders or erased.
Researchers found that students who were told their information would be saved were better at remembering where their information was stored than the facts themselves. Those who were told their notes would be erased most accurately remembered the trivia.
This suggests that the internet may be fundamentally altering the way we process information, since we place more importance on how we can access data and less on the information itself. Instead of remembering the name of an old classmate, the title of a song, or even the phone number of your significant other, with the internet or a smart phone the facts are at your fingertips.
Researchers are calling this the “Google effect.”