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Are We Starting To Outsource Human Memory To The Internet?

Google search

Having a hard time remembering the exact location of that great new diner you had lunch at, or that interesting fact you thought you learned the other day?

Thanks to the Internet, computers and mobile devices, we don’t really have to memorize phone numbers and addresses to some of our favorite places these days, or even petty details like names of movies we might want to see. If you want to remember something you simply pull up the name in a Google search (or on a local drive) and find all the information you need.

However, if you sit down at the computer to find the name of that super cool salon your friend told you about the other day, you’re probably better to give them a ring or send them a message in order to remember the name of the place. What was it called again?

A recent study published in the journal Science observed 46 college students, concluding that they had lower recall rates of information if they knew it was available to find later via a computer.

This isn’t necessarily something that just developed as a result of the Internet and search engines. Humans have used resources for many years as a way to gather information rather than memorizing it. Phone books, encyclopedias and dictionaries have been around for a long time, but Google offers everything you could possibly need from these books at just a couple of clicks of a mouse, so it’s no surprise that the way we use our memories has begun to change as a result of enhanced information availability.

It appears we are becoming more likely to remember where we got the facts from, rather than what the facts are. Apparently we are remembering fewer facts but more sources.

This doesn’t apply to every aspect of our memory, either. The scientists researching this study claim if you’re an expert on something, whether it’s sewing or cycling or underwater basket weaving, the Internet isn’t going to cause you to forget how to cross stitch. However, remembering the phone number to my favorite restaurant when I know it’s just a mouse click or a touchscreen away? I’ll leave it to my computer.

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