google-2010Educators and scientists had begun to notice that man was becoming more and more dependent on information on the Internet, but until now there were few studies to confirm this. Research by psychologist Betsy Sparrow, associate professor at Columbia University in New York (USA), reveals thatThe Internet works as an “external memory” that makes us retain less and less information.

It was his personal experience, when he realized that he frequently resorted to the IMDB film database to remember the names of some actors, which led him to delve into the study and learning habits of the new generations. Sparrow took into account the psychologist Daniel Wegner, a Harvard professor, who thirty years ago developed the theory of“transactive memory”, which refers to the ability to divide the work of remembering certain types of shared information.

Following this theory, Sparrow wondered ifinternet was playing that role for the whole world, by way of agreat collective memoryAnd, together with his team, he ran a series of experiments with more than a hundred Harvard students to examine the relationship between human memory, data retention, and the Internet. The team found that when participants did not know the answers to the questions, they automatically thought of their computer as the place to find that information.Science.

In addition, they found that if students knew that the information might be available at another time or that they could look for it again just as easily, they did not remember the answer as well as when they believed that the information would not be available. Another of the behavior patterns highlighted in the study is that people do not necessarily remember how they obtained certain information as long as they remember what it was. However, it does tend to rememberwhere they found the data they needwhen they are not able to remember the information exactly.

The study suggests thatthe population has begun to use the internet as their “personal data bank”, a phenomenon known as the “Google effect”, and computers and online search engines have become a kind of “external memory” system that can be accessed at will of the user and to which human memory is adapting.

According to Sparrow, he has not been surprised to find that more and more people are not memorizing data because they trust that they can get it, but their ability to find it. “We are really efficient,” he concludes.

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