After the invention of the computer and the Internet, the knowledge that we have at the tips of our fingers is impossibly endless. However, though we have access to all of the information that the world has to offer, search engines, such as Google, for example, are actually making things a little too easy for today’s generations and society overall.
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Google and other search engines were created for the purpose of searching throughout the Internet for information to aid us in our daily lives, for homework, research papers, etc. Google has helped to improve our memory through the search for information online, but multiple studies have proven that Google, among all of the other search engines available, including Yahoo and Bing, are rerouting our memory.
How Google is Rerouting the Memory of the Human Mind
Because of Google, our memory has rerouted to remember where we can find the answers to questions and where required information is, rather than remembering the answers or the information itself.
Transactive memory is the group of information that is held by the group itself, which is a concept that was proposed during 1958 by Harvard psychologist Daniel Wegner, who was also one of the head authors of the paper’s current findings. Transactive memory works by recalling external memories from stored events and data that are sourced outside of the brain in humans, which directly relates to search engines, such as Google, how we use them, and what we remember when we use them.
Reading a Book vs Going Online
Research and multiple studies have studied whether or not the Internet is beneficial when it comes to reading a book vs going online in today’s society, as it’s an unrealistic expectation for the youth to want to read classics, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird”, in their own spare time.
Some argue when it comes to reading online that it’s the equivalent of eating foods with empty calories on an intellectual level, and that it does not help strengthen reading, but rather it makes reading too easy, whereas books and other forms of physical texts give today’s society a challenge, instead.
For example, Dana Gioia, a chairman from the N.E.A, who took place in a report by the Department of Education, had this to say on the topic:
“Whatever the benefits of newer electronic media, they provide no measurable substitute for the intellectual and personal development initiated and sustained by frequent reading.”
From a more simple point of view, youth in today’s society are encouraged to read during their spare time to ensure that they become better at reading as a whole, with those who admit to reading in their spare time scoring higher than those who do not, according to federal testing and statistics.
On this, Dana Gioia concluded that:
“What we are losing in this country and presumably around the world is the sustained, focused, linear attention developed by reading. I would believe people who tell me that the Internet develops reading if I did not see such a universal decline in reading ability and reading comprehension on virtually all tests.”
The results of a study that took place with 700 low-income families for the purpose of investigating how the Internet has affected reading skills concluded that those who are spending more time reading than on the Internet have a higher academic performance. Therefore, reading that is related to any form of performance academically is shown through the reading of books, and not reading any form of content online, which is predicted and shown through higher grade point averages, and higher grades in certain relevant classes, such as English or Literature classes.
However, the leader of this study, Elizabeth Birr Moje, one of the University of Michigan professors, concluded that the reading of novels is similar to the demands needed for school, but that the Internet gives students new reading abilities and skills that are not taught in school.
Ken Pugh, a Yale cognitive neuroscientist who studies brain scans of children who read, had this to say:
“Reading a book, and taking the time to ruminate and make inferences and engage the imaginational processing, is more cognitively enriching, without doubt, than the short little bits that you might get if you’re into the 30-second digital mode.”
What the Internet Has Done to Our Expectations
Thanks to the Internet, extensive details are now no longer needed. Books and other forms of literature, such as academic textbooks, do not always lead you straight to the answers that you are in need of, but in fact give you all of the information on a subject as a whole. The Internet, however, does not generally do that.
For example, if you use Google to look for a question to an answer, more often that not you will be led to the answer straight away, whereas if you were looking in a book, the question, possible answer, tidbits of information, and then the answer itself will be laid out for you.
The Internet does not give a proper challenge like traditional books and literature does, and this has become a problem. Articles, academic articles, and general blog posts on the Internet have ensured total convenience when reading, and get straight to the point, which has affected the way that some people read.
One blogger, Bruce Friedman, had this to say on his mental habits and reading on the Internet:
“I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print. I can’t read War and Peace anymore, I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
The answer to this question, “is Google making us stupid?”, has an easy answer – yes, Google has in fact made a negative impact on our mental habits, our reading abilities, and the way that we absorb information as a whole.
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