“What did we do before the Internet?” That’s the question Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow asked her husband four years ago after looking up some movie trivia online. Has Google, and its ability to to pass on information to us at lightning speed changed how we think? Four experiments later Sparrow has published her findings in the August, 2011 edition of SCIENCE.
In one of the experiments, two groups of college students were presented with trivia statements. Students in one group were told they could retrieve information on their computer at a later date. The other group was told ahead of time that they could not go to their computer. Sparrow found that the students who were allowed to use their computer had worse recall than the students in the other group. “The Web is an external memory storage space, and we make it responsible for remembering things,” she says. Should we be concerned based on these results than that using the Internet is toxic for our brain? Sparrow says no… our brain may just be adapting to present circumstances. “We’re in an Internet world.” Scientific American Mind January/February 2012 Anne Casselman