Using Google is Making Your Memory Worse

There was an interesting report out recently that essentially states that using search engines has changed the way we remember things. In short, instead of ‘learning’ it seems that people simply go to a search engine to find answers to things they want to know.

As noted in the press release;

“Sparrow’s research reveals that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet. We are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. And we are better able to remember where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself. This is believed to be the first research of its kind into the impact of search engines on human memory organization. “

Because of Google’s search dominance, they were calling it the ‘Google Effect’. Now of course, there will be the haters saying, “Look, yet another way Google is screwing up our lives!” but that’s a bit unfair because they really are talking about search engines in general. But I may be in the minority on this one, at least according to the study.

How search engines are affecting our memory

And as a geek that spent much of his youth in libraries, before the age of the internet, I often find myself using search engines in the same way. It is the starting point on a path of discovery.

Anyway, here’s some more details for you;

And a vid for those too lazy to read (little lone remember things);


  1. I think ‘proving’ this would require a pretty long term testing process, extending well back before Google’s time — so perhaps performance by the same age group on some type of standardized test that required memorization. Unfortunately, there’s no direct cause-and-effect possible there either. If the it appeared that the scores were declining, most people would chalk that off to declining education, increases in single parent families, etc.

    What is interesting is that a similar argument was made about 2400 years ago about “writing”, by Plato’s Socrates in the dialog “Phaedrus”. Socrates also held that “writing” was causing the decline of memory since it no longer required that memory be “exercised” on a regular basis.

    Maybe the bottom line is that having a good memory takes exercise. Use it or lose it 🙂

  2. Michael Martinez

    The experiment is not very thorough. They should have compared their findings to how well people remember things if they are confident they can find those things in books.

    Anyone who has seen “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” knows you write things in a diary so that you don’t have to remember them.

  3. The way the internet in general is affecting how we think is also a concern of mine. Not sure where I sit yet, so far.

    See also my personal blog posts on the matter:

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