Forgetting things such as day to day tasks, birthdays and anniversaries has been an accepted but irritating part of everyday life for years. But according to the recent research conducted by the psychologist Betsy Sparrow at Columbia University, the internet may have more to do with our memories than we ever thought possible.
According to Sparrow's research, because we are becoming more reliant on the internet to find information, we're becoming less likely to remember it. Which basically means that because we have got so used using the internet to find specific information, such as addresses, phone numbers, facts and other trivia, we don't need to memorise it, because we know where we can find everything: Google.
Through four experiments, Sparrow established that students were more likely to remember a fact or other piece of information if they believe that it will be removed from the computer or website, and forget it if they are told that it will still be on the computer or website when they go back to the computer. The study also revealed that the same group of students were able to remember where they found certain facts, as opposed to recalling the actual fact itself, such as the website or file where the information was stored, but not the information.
While Sparrow's findings, which were published in the scientific journal, Science, earlier this month show that the use of Google and other search engines does have an affect on the way we remember and store certain information, it also reveals that we are still very capable of memorising specific information if we take it from another source, such as a book. So, while it would seem that humans are less likely to remember something we've taken from an online source, we are more likely to remember the same piece of information if it came from another, more traditional source. Which has led Sparrow and her team to summarise that our memory is capable of recognising where we go for information, and can adapt to new technologies as well as relying on memorising something using repetition alone. Therefore, Sparrow summarised, The Google Effect frees up more memory for information analysis.
It's clear from the findings that the way we use the internet, specifically search engines like Google has had an effect on us, but it's not permanent, and we just have to remember where we need to go online to find out about particular topics, but remember, all online research will always start with on site, and it's probably Google.