A third of adults search for answers without trying to remember and 25% immediately forget what they’ve found out
There are fears impatience is triggering ‘digital amnesia,’ which means we rely on the internet for answers but easily forget the information we quickly look up online.
A new study suggests that when faced with a question, over a third of people automatically Google the answer quickly, without trying to come up with the answer themselves.
It also warns that a quarter of people immediately forget the information they have googled - a process which can mean the dissolution of memories and useful information.
The international study, which involved 6,000 international consumers aged 16 and over, was conducted by digital security firm, Kaspersky Lab.
It reveals 36 per cent of people said they Google information before trying to recall the answer themselves, with the percentage rising to 40 per cent for those aged 45 and over.
It’s possible that these users may doubt the accuracy of their memory, or may be impatient to get the correct answer as quickly as possible, the report says.
Similarly, 24 per cent admitted they would forget the online answer after they had used it and this figure rose to 27 per cent among over 45’s surveyed, with 12 per cent assuming the information will always be out there somewhere so there is little point in trying to memorise it.
This urge for the fastest possible access to information, combined with a reluctance to remember it afterwards, has far-reaching implications for both our long-term memories, because a failure to make use of the information stored in our memories can ultimately result in use forgetting it.
‘Our brain appears to strengthen a memory each time we recall it and at the same time forget irrelevant memories that are distracting us,’ said Dr Maria Wimber of the University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology, who was involved with the report.
‘Past research has repeatedly demonstrated that actively recalling information is a very efficient way to create a permanent memory.
’In contrast, passively repeating information (e.g. by repeatedly looking it up on the internet) does not create a solid, lasting memory trace in the same way.
‘Based on this research, it can be argued that the trend to look up information before even trying to recall it prevents the build-up of long-term memories.
This is not the first report to suggest that Google is rotting our memories.
In a series of tests conducted two years ago, Harvard University researchers found that participants were more likely to recall information if they believed it had been erased from a computer.
Those who thought it was stored were more forgetful, even if explicitly asked to keep the information in mind.
In another experiment, the team asked students to answer trivia questions with or without Google, and then asked them to rate their own intelligence.
They found those who used the internet had a significantly higher view of their own brain power, even compared with individuals who got the questions right through their own knowledge.
‘Using Google gives people the sense that the internet has become part of their own cognitive tool set,’ the researchers concluded.
And rather than sharing information, people are more likely to save it electronically if they want future access to it, rather than relying on someone else’s memory, the researchers found.
Psychologists Daniel Wegner and Adrian Ward, wrote in the journal Scientific American: ‘Our work suggests that we treat the internet much like a human transactive memory partner [a person we share personal details with].
’We off-load memories to "the cloud" just as readily as we would to a family member, friend or lover.’
‘It seems that the propensity for off-loading information to digital sources is so strong that people are often unable to fix details in their own thoughts when in the presence of a cyberbuddy,’ the researchers added.
’They said that having the internet ‘undermines the impulse to ensure that some important facts get inscribed into our biological memory banks’.