Memories or Megabytes?

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A fairly recent study put on by researchers at Columbia, Harvard and the University of Wisconsin sought to test the effects of internet/computer use to see if it is changing the way people remember information. For one part of the experiment, participants were asked type 40 different bits of trivia into a computer. One example of such trivia was "an ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain." Half of these participants were told the computer would save what they typed in, while the other half were told their items would be erased.memory-capacity.jpg The study found that the participants who were told their items would not be saved were better able to recall what they typed as opposed to the participants who thought their items would be saved. In essence, the people who thought they could simply check the computer later did not make as much as an effort to remember what they typed. The experiment toys with the notion of transactive memory and our growing reliance on computers and internet. The idea behind transactive memory is that we rely on other people and materials in our lives to help recall information. The advent of computers and internet has increased our reliance on accessing information transactively. In this day and age we don't need to remember everything anymore. Google has become a household term, with the click of a mouse we can pretty much find anything we want. The validity of this experiment seems legitimate, except we aren't told how these participants were selected - some people may be better at remembering information. If you tell people something won't be saved, of course they are going to pay closer attention to the details. While people argue that the "Google Effect" is making us dumber, I have to disagree. Aren't we taking advantage of our resources? Isn't it making us more productive? Why spend three hours looking for a formula in a dusty book when I could find it instantly on Google? I argue that with the "Google Effect" we have more time to work rather than waste valuable time recalling information. There is in fact successful replicability of this experiment. All in all, there is still a lot to explore, but is this phenomenon good or bad?


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This is related to Jono's earlier post. My husband seems to function as my transactive memory and vice versa. Together we have great memories of details and events in our lives -- alone, our memories are not so great...

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This page contains a single entry by schus193 published on October 2, 2011 9:35 PM.

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