Search engines are changing the way our memory works

A recent article in Science Mag suggests that the use of computers and the internet might actually be changing the way our memory works.

A series of psychology experiments recently carried out have shown that sometimes, when people were presented with hard to answer questions, they began to think of computers.

If participants believed that it would be easy to find answers on Google later, then they had poorer recall of the actual answer, and yet a greater memory of where the answer was stored.

A head x-ray showing someone with a computer for a brainThe researchers said that the internet acts as a tool which we now depend upon to to aid our memories, by remembering some data for us.

Here is the abstract for the journal entry

The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines, has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can “Google” the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.

In more simplified English, what this is basically saying is that it is now much easier to access data online, mainly thanks to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. If we have a question, we can find the answer in seconds.


This has lead the the human brain associating the thought of a problem with computers, as it believes that the internet will be the source of the solution. Search engines are now embeded so much in our brain, that when we think of a problem, we no longer bother trying to work out the answer for ourselves, but instead we associate the possibility of finding the solution of the problem with a search engine.

Let’s be honest, who hasn’t been bugged by something, asked someone else who also wasn’t able to help and as a result was either told “Google it” or thought “I could Google that”? I have, in fact I would say it happens on a weekly basis!

Question time

So what do you think? Are computers, the internet and search engines making us stupid, or is it just that we are now adapting as a race to more efficient ways of finding out information?

Who should get to use the internet?

I was reading an article the other day about whether people should ever be ‘cut off’ from the internet.


This got me thinking.

  • The right to have privacy
  • The right to live/exist
  • The right to have a family
  • The right to work for anyone
  • The right to free speech
  • The right to equal rights
  • The right to think freely
  • et cetera, et cetera…

Recognise any of them? They are some of the current human rights. They are the fundamental things that most countries around the world believe you should be entitled to. But, should the right to internet access if you want it become a human right?


The United Nations logo

The United Nations logo

If so this would probably only be passed as a human in more developed countries, but should it be someone’s human right to have access to the internet?

Obviously I am not on about technical glitches, but many governments can cut you off if they want, and in fact many do if you continually break copyright laws.

The internet is a fantastic method for self expression and communication, can we really take such a tool away from people?

Selecting the best mobile broadband provider for you

When it comes to mobile broadband providers then the options are certainly plentiful, but picking the right one can be a little less straightforward, particularly if you’re not all that savvy with current deals.An O2 dongle pluged into a laptop

There are essentially two options open to you, with one route being the pay as you go option, while the other is the contract route. Both are good bets, although it really depends on your circumstances as to which one you’ll ultimately plump for.

Either way, you’ll need a mobile broadband dongle in order to connect to whichever network it is you end up going with. These are the small plastic USB devices that slot into an available port on your laptop or netbook in order to pick up the signal and there are many to choose from.

Some mobile broadband networks give these away with certain deals, while others may make a nominal charge for them. The great thing about going for a pay as you go dongle is that you don’t need to stick too any one deal and after you’ve used up the available credit you can move to a better deal that might have emerged.

Having said that, you’ll probably find that many mobile broadband providers generally offer more flexible deals when it comes to things like data allowances with contract offers. Pay as you go is handy as it doesn’t require a contract and you’re not tied down for any period of time, but if you need beefier download allowances then contract may be the better of the two.

Of course, knowing which network provider is going to be the best relies on a number of factors as well as this, so lookout for the speed offered, although this is often much more optimistic in advertising than it is in reality. Look too for what sort of monthly cost there will be if it’s a contract deal and also if there is any set-up cost initially.

Mobile broadband providers are always coming up with new deals and incentives to try and get you to sign on the dotted line. Lookout for free laptop deals, which get given to you in return for signing up to a longer contract. Other goodies include free dongles, extra airtime, calls for nothing and all manner of other goodies if you shop around.

And that is where the secret to finding the best mobile broadband provider lies. One of the best ways to get the deal to suit your requirement, and also your wallet, is to use the services of a broadband comparison website. This is a free and easy way of locating exactly the right deal and also comparing precise details with all of the other current options.

Read some reviews too and don’t forget to ask around or check with friends and work colleagues as to their own preferences. One thing is for sure, there are plenty of deals and a little bit of homework up front can pay big dividends in the long run.