NBC News – “Every now and then, Adrian Ward likes to test himself against the internet’s most-used search engine. “There are times when I have the impulse to Google something, and I don’t,” said Ward, who studies psychology as an assistant professor of Every now and then, Adrian Ward likes to test himself against the internet’s most-used search engine. “There are times when I have the impulse to Google something, and I don’t,” said Ward, who studies psychology as an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. “Because,” he said, “I want to see if I can drag that up from memory.” It’s a challenge that’s familiar to anyone with a smartphone in their pocket who can’t quite remember the year that a favorite album came out or the name of an actor in an old movie. Take out the phone? Or rack the brain? But that choice is more than a way to test our recollection of trivia. People who lean on a search engine such as Google may get the right answers but they can also end up with a wrong idea of how strong their own memory is, according to a study that Ward published in August. That’s because online search is so seamless and always available that people often don’t have the chance to experience their own failure to remember things, the study found. The findings are part of a wave of new research in recent years examining the intersection of the internet and human memory. The implications could be far-reaching, including for the spread of political misinformation, Ward said. He cited years of research into how people make decisions, showing that people who are overconfident in their knowledge become more entrenched in their views about politics and science and also can make questionable financial and medical decisions. “The larger effect is people thinking, ‘I am smart. I am responsible for this. I came up with this info,’” Ward said in an interview.
A cadre of cognitive scientists, psychologists and other researchers are trying to understand what it means to remember when memories have been shaped by technology sometimes in many different ways. It amounts to a rethinking of how memory is going to work with each new iteration of digital devices — blurring the line between mind and the internet into something that one day might be thought of as an “Intermind,”Ward said….”
Source: Adrian Ward. 2021. People Mistake the Internet’s Knowledge for Their Own. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming.