Has the Internet Made Us Lazy?

February 18th, 2013 by Maggie Emerson

googleIt’s no doubt that the Internet and search engines have drastically changed many aspects of contemporary life. The way people act, think, and speak have all been dramatically affected by the innovations of the Internet and search engines. In our line of work, we see the great benefits search engines can have on people and business. However, some studies have discovered some other interesting effects the Internet can have on people and their memory.

Whenever anyone has a question, the automatic answer is “Google it.” To many of us of the younger generation, this seems like a no brainer, but when we think back to our first research project in the 5th grade, just “looking it up” had very different meaning, possibly opening up a book, getting the encyclopedia off the that top bookshelf, or even — gasp — a trip to the library. Information is so easily accessible today through technologies; we have SO much information at the tips of our fingers. Have these innovations of the Internet changed the way our memory and our brain works? Has the Internet made us lazy?

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Think back to when you looked up a something simple on the internet, like how late Dominos stays open, and then you wanted to know that information a second time a few weeks later, do you remember that information or do you find your self looking it up multiple times on different occasions. Since the information is readily available to us are we less likely to remember it? Studies have shown the answer is yes!

A study performed by three psychologists reported college students showed lower rates of recall on newly learned facts when students thought the information would later be easily accessible on a computer. The study also reported that when students are searching for information on the Internet, they were more likely to remember where they got the information than the actual information itself.  All this seems to support the claim that the Internet has in fact has made us lazy.

Although we may be lazier, the study goes on to tell us the Internet may also be making us smarter! Experiments like these have discovered people are “using technology as external memory storage.” The researchers are quoted saying “We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools, growing into interconnected systems that remember less by knowing information than by knowing where information can be found.” One of the psychologists concludes this very practice could be making us smarter because we don’t waste brainpower memorizing the facts. Instead we get more out of the information, and we then have a better chance at grasping the overall concept.

What are your thoughts? How has the Internet affected you over the years? Do you think you are lazier or, in fact, are you smarter?