The Internet is becoming our main source of memory instead of our own brains, a study has concluded.
In the age of Google, our minds are adapting so that we are experts at knowing where to find information even though we don’t recall what it is.
The researchers found that when we want to know something we use the Internet as an ‘external memory’ just as computers use an external hard drive.
Nowadays we are so reliant on our smart phones and laptops that we go into ‘withdrawal when we can’t find out something immediately’.
And such is our dependence that having our Internet connection severed is growing ‘more and more like losing a friend’.
Researchers from Harvard University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Columbia University in the US carried out four tests to check their theory.
They involved giving test participants a trivia quiz and then seeing whether they recognised computer-related words more quickly than other words.
The other tests involved seeing if people remembered 40 pieces information they would typically later have normally looked up.
The third and fourth parts of the study involved checking how well people remember where to look up information on-line and whether or not they remembered the location more than the actual data.
The results showed that when people don’t believe they will need information for a later test, they do not recall it at the same rate as when they do believe they will need it.
In fact, some of those in the study ‘actively did not make the effort to remember when they thought they could later look up the trivia statements they had read’, the paper says.
The other results showed that when continuous Internet access is expected, people are better at remembering where they can find it than the details.