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New research suggests the Internet is changing our memory. Researchers from Colombia University presented people with different questions and found many began to think of computers. Lead researcher Dr Betsy Sparrow said that when test participants knew the answers would be available on a computer, they did less well on the memory tests. She said we use the Internet as a new “transactive memory”. We rely on this to do the remembering for us. It’s similar to our personal data being backed up on a hard disk. The Internet acts as a huge storage device for all the world’s knowledge, that is there when we need it. Dr Sparrow said computers were not making us less intelligent. “I don’t think Google is making us stupid. We’re just changing the way that we’re remembering things,” she said.

 

Dr Sparrow believes we are becoming very good at remembering where we keep information in different folders on our computers. She said: “This suggests that for the things we can find online, we tend to keep it online as far as memory is concerned – we keep it externally stored.” She explained that because we are remembering the location of the information, rather than the information itself, we are becoming better at organising huge quantities of data and facts in a more accessible way. She also said the way we use technology is changing our need to remember things, saying: “If you can find stuff online even while you’re walking down the street these days, then the skill to have, the thing to remember, is where to go to find the information.”

 

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