Since the dawn of the digital age, researchers have sought to discover the multitude of ways in which the internet affects human behavior. From completely reinventing the wheel of communication to transforming our labor market, the World Wide Web's influence is both pervasive and boundless. But what about how the internet affects our intelligence?
Such was the question on William Poundstone of New York Magazine's mind. While we know that the internet has enabled us to do more with less—aka write entire articles without doing any on-the-ground reporting or watch movies without having to take a trip to the video rental store—how has it influenced the way in which we absorb and retain new information?
According to Poundstone, the answer can be found in a phenomenon he calls "The Google Effect." This basically means that, despite having the ability to memorize information, we feel less pressure to do so because we know it's all archived on the internet. Put simply: The internet hasn't made us stupid—just kind of lazy. It's kind of like having an open book test in high school—what's the point of memorizing the information when it's just a page-turn away?
Take a 2013 study from Linda Henkel of Fairfield University, for example. Henkel had undergraduate students take a docent tour at Fairfield University's Bellarmine Museum of Art. She instructed half of the students to take photos of specific artworks on their phones, while the other half were told to simply take mental notes on them. When given a quiz on the artworks the next day, those without archived photos of them remembered more about the pieces overall.
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