Google Is Ruining Your Memory

Columbia University Professor Betsy Sparrow says we just don’t bother remembering anything anymore. From Columbia News:

The rise of Internet search engines like Google has changed the way our brain remembers information, according to research by Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow published July 14 in Science.

“Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganizing the way we remember things,” said Sparrow. “Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.”

Sparrow’s research reveals that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet. We are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. And we are better able to remember where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself. This is believed to be the first research of its kind into the impact of search engines on human memory organization…

[continues at Columbia News]

majestic

Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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35 Comments on "Google Is Ruining Your Memory"

  1. I already forgot what this article said, I’ll have to remember to google it later.

  2. jasonpaulhayes | Jul 15, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    I already forgot what this article said, I’ll have to remember to google it later.

  3. What’s an “article”?  

  4. A wise man once told me…The computer is doing what the forklift did to the human body but to the human mind, making it weak.

  5. A wise man once told me…The computer is doing what the forklift did to the human body but to the human mind, making it weak.

    • lies you just dont know how to use a computer. and that wise man was probably satan or jesus and they are both imps 

    • Patrick91jh | Jul 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm |

      I smell embedded naturalistic fallacies in sentiments such as these. Remember that a forklift can carry more than most humans could ever hope to carry. Technological interdependence is seemingly inevitable for the progression of the species – the world in which humanity prefers muscle power to mind power could only be blissful by way of great ignorance.

  6. Patrick91jh | Jul 15, 2011 at 5:07 pm |

    Ruining our memory? It’s not an entirely terrible thing, really. It seems more efficient to have memory adapted for internet use since it would mean that you could devote cognitive resources to the network of information rather than being forced to remember everything on your own – which you are unlikely to ever succeed in doing.
    The notion, however, probably strikes terror into the hearts of raging individualists.

  7. Patrick91jh | Jul 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    Ruining our memory? It’s not an entirely terrible thing, really. It seems more efficient to have memory adapted for internet use since it would mean that you could devote cognitive resources to the network of information rather than being forced to remember everything on your own – which you are unlikely to ever succeed in doing.
    The notion, however, probably strikes terror into the hearts of raging individualists.

  8. lies you just dont know how to use a computer. and that wise man was probably satan or jesus and they are both imps 

  9. Patrick91jh | Jul 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm |

    I smell embedded naturalistic fallacies in sentiments such as these. Remember that a forklift can carry more than most humans could ever hope to carry. Technological interdependence is seemingly inevitable for the progression of the species – the world in which humanity prefers muscle power to mind power could only be blissful by way of great ignorance.

  10. My memory is as good as ever. Now i can remember truly important things instead of having to ponder on mundane crap. these pseudo scientists are just looking for attention they need to find something better to do. 

  11. My memory is as good as ever. Now i can remember truly important things instead of having to ponder on mundane crap. these pseudo scientists are just looking for attention they need to find something better to do. 

  12. the computer is your memory. Most Humans externalize because there is more room for creativity. Animals internalize most of the time and are minimalists. The computer computer is the crystallization of the superconsciousness we all share. All is one son

  13. the computer is your memory. Most Humans externalize because there is more room for creativity. Animals internalize most of the time and are minimalists. The computer computer is the crystallization of the superconsciousness we all share. All is one son

  14. computer = all information technology

  15. Computers and search engines give me more things to remember, and thats a fact i will never forget

  16. Computers and search engines give me more things to remember, and thats a fact i will never forget

  17. GuestGuesses | Jul 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm |

    Did you see that messed up pixelation? She must be a reptilian.

  18. GuestGuesses | Jul 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm |

    Did you see that messed up pixelation? She must be a reptilian.

  19. Socrates said the same thing about books. Does not writing things down, in a way, also ruin your memory?

    Ignore these people.

  20. Socrates said the same thing about books. Does not writing things down, in a way, also ruin your memory?

    Ignore these people.

  21. How is using Google any different from using any other traditional concept of fast indexing? I’d ask a librarian to point in the direction of a book. Once shown to me, I’d remember it if I needed to hire it out again. Something repeated allows for the brain to retain the process.

    I use Google to look up things I need in the moment, a spare of the moment thing, as opposed to keep to needing it find something I’d use regularly.

  22. How is using Google any different from using any other traditional concept of fast indexing? I’d ask a librarian to point in the direction of a book. Once shown to me, I’d remember it if I needed to hire it out again. Something repeated allows for the brain to retain the process.

    I use Google to look up things I need in the moment, a spare of the moment thing, as opposed to keep to needing it find something I’d use regularly.

  23. How is using Google any different from using any other traditional concept of fast indexing? I’d ask a librarian to point in the direction of a book. Once shown to me, I’d remember it if I needed to hire it out again. Something repeated allows for the brain to retain the process.

    I use Google to look up things I need in the moment, a spare of the moment thing, as opposed to keep to needing it find something I’d use regularly.

    • The difference is the sheer size of the nearly infinite amount of information pouring out of the internet that people are swallowing up. It changes you. Back in the day there really was a limited amount of information you could gather, even libraries were pretty much limited to the people who had a lot of time on their hands, and as a result you focused yourself and memorized what you needed because you wouldn’t have it availible to you at all times.

      Now I read like a million cracked articles with all sorts of cool but useless information, and that’s just one site, not to even get into social info like facebook. I know I can look up any fact instantly so I don’t bother to memorize, and my brain knows I can find it again. In some ways it’s great, but in others it makes things difficult if you’re discussing a topic and can’t remember the details without pausing every 2 minutes to check google.

  24. Theguyoncraigslist | Jul 16, 2011 at 7:59 pm |

    So funny I forgot to laugh.

  25. Did any of you reactive morons bother to view the video OR read the article? “Perhaps those who teach in any context, be they college professors, doctors or business leaders, will become increasingly focused on imparting greater understanding of ideas and ways of thinking, and less focused on memorization,” said Sparrow. “And perhaps those who learn will become less occupied with facts and more engaged in larger questions of understanding.” Rather different than the Disinfo title “Google is ruining your memory” isn’t it? Of course if that one line is all you ever read you wouldn’t know that. Never mind memory, if you never read more than a line there was never anything to remember in the first place!

  26. Did any of you reactive morons bother to view the video OR read the article? “Perhaps those who teach in any context, be they college professors, doctors or business leaders, will become increasingly focused on imparting greater understanding of ideas and ways of thinking, and less focused on memorization,” said Sparrow. “And perhaps those who learn will become less occupied with facts and more engaged in larger questions of understanding.” Rather different than the Disinfo title “Google is ruining your memory” isn’t it? Of course if that one line is all you ever read you wouldn’t know that. Never mind memory, if you never read more than a line there was never anything to remember in the first place!

  27. Anonymous | Jul 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm |

    The difference is the sheer size of the nearly infinite amount of information pouring out of the internet that people are swallowing up. It changes you. Back in the day there really was a limited amount of information you could gather, even libraries were pretty much limited to the people who had a lot of time on their hands, and as a result you focused yourself and memorized what you needed because you wouldn’t have it availible to you at all times.

    Now I read like a million cracked articles with all sorts of cool but useless information, and that’s just one site, not to even get into social info like facebook. I know I can look up any fact instantly so I don’t bother to memorize, and my brain knows I can find it again. In some ways it’s great, but in others it makes things difficult if you’re discussing a topic and can’t remember the details without pausing every 2 minutes to check google.

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