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.
Skipping to the thesis:
Relying on our computers and the information stored on the Internet for memory de- pends on several of the same transactive memory processes that underlie social information-sharing in general. These studies suggest that people share information easily because they rapidly think of computers when they find they need knowledge. The social form of information storage is also reflected in the find-ings that people forget items they think will be available externally and remember items they think will not be available. Transactive memory is also evident when people seem better able to remember where an item has been stored than the identity of the item itself. These results suggest that processes of human memory are adapting to the advent of new computing and communication technology. Just as we learn through transactive memory who knows what in our families and offices, we are learning what the computer “knows” and when we should attend to where we have stored information in our computer- based memories. We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools, growing into interconnected systems that remember less by know- ing information than by knowing where the information can be found. This gives us the ad- vantage of access to a vast range of information, although the disadvantages of being constantly “wired” are still being debated. It may be no more that nostalgia at this point, however, to wish we were less dependent on our gadgets. We have become dependent on them to the same degree we are dependent on all the knowledge we gain from our friends and co-workers–and lose if they are out of touch. The experience of losing our Internet connection becomes more and more like losing a friend. We must remain plugged in to know what Google knows.
Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips
Based upon the above journal article see also an article in UX Magazine entitled “Metamemory and the User Experience” by Cassandra Moore. She states that when people expect to be able to access information in the future, they tend to have reduced memory for the actual information, but enhanced memory for where to find the information.
Her summary includes a tie in to user experience and how we design products for use.
Metamemory and the User Experience