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Internet Use Causing Memory Loss

Does Google Cause Internet Brain Burnout?

Never one to win a round of Trivial Pursuit? A new study in Science magazine suggests you're not alone. Our culture is becoming increasingly reliant on Internet searches in lieu of old-fashioned memory.

The study led by Betsy Sparrow, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University, examined how likely people are to remember facts if they are easily available online via a Google search. Researchers had a group of college students type trivia into a computer. Half were told the statements would be saved, and the other half were told they would be erased. Those told the text would be erased were able to better recall the statement than those who thought the information was saved. Researchers argue that unless told to remember something, like when studying for a test, we are less likely to recall facts for future use, letting search engines pick up the mind's storage slack instead.

Though his memory may still be in tact, former Twitter addict John Mayer said at a recent college appearance that he quit thinking in 140 characters, because the digital platform also affected how he thought. He said: "I stopped using Twitter as an outlet and I started using Twitter as the instrument to riff on, and it started to make my mind smaller and smaller and smaller. And I couldn’t write a song."

Have you had a similar experience? Has Internet use changed the way you process information and remember facts?

Image Source: Thinkstock
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tortolitas1 tortolitas1 5 years
Nah Google just reshapes the brain neuro-adaptively just like the invention of text/writing did. Its different neither better or worse. Unless we want to do the hard work to preserve the pre-google mind it will become the stuff of atavists.
thecolor thecolor 5 years
I agree with @spacekatgal ( I read a short on the same thing here: ); I also immediately googled the source over having it written down... but, we are becoming better at searching for content outside our brain and offloading heavy items to the cloud to avoid mucking it up ;) So, in a sense, we are utilizing the cloud for our own content just as a personal computer does. Photos, conversations, memories (archives), media (records, tapes, cds, vhs, dvd, etc.) Most of the time when I ask someone for something (question, or otherwise), it's not so much that I can't easily find it myself, it's now a "social thing" a simple desire to communicate with someone over looking it up; I want to start a conversation. Otherwise the office might never have it (a drone place of silence) if we always relied on the 'cloud'.
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