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The Google Effect – People are Using Internet as a Memory Reservoir?

As technology develops, the usage of the internet has become more and more popular among individuals. As this popularity increases, people’s dependency on the internet will inevitably be also elevated along with this process. This phenomenon is not vague, instead, it is able to be felt by individuals explicitly from many perspectives such as communication and entertainment. Nevertheless, within the many aspects where people’s dependency on the internet is exhibited, one of them is hardly noticed, which is the phenomenon in which people are using the internet as a memory reservoir, as referred to the Google effect, or digital amnesia. 

Although this phenomenon is not commonly noticed among individuals, the impact of it is significant and unneglectable. Since the Google effect is associated with memory, it can have immense impacts on individuals’ cognitive processes. This article aims to provide an overview of the mechanisms of the Google effect, as well as discuss the potential impacts that can be brought by this phenomenon.

Mechanism of the Google Effect – Transactive memory systems

Before explaining the Google effect, it is important to describe an essential concept that is used to explain it first. The concept of a transactive memory system (TMS) is first proposed by Wegner (1985). TWS mainly describes that, within a group of often closely associated individuals, there will be a “division of labor” in retaining memory. 

To elaborate, there is a case of TWS which can be commonly seen in real-world contexts. Assume that there are two people, A and B, who are classmates with a good relationship. Between them, A finishes memorizing the class schedule while B has not. In this case, every time during break time, B will tend to ask A for the subject and the classroom of the next class. As time passed, B is not likely to remember the entire class schedule, instead, what he will remember, is that during every break time, he needs to ask A for the next class. 

In fact, in the context of TWS, individuals who are closely related depend on each other for the retrieval of information. More specifically, the individuals will tend to not remember the information itself, but rather remember the approach by which the information can be found, which is commonly, asking others who know this exact piece of information. 


Additionally, due to the fact that people are “cognitive misers”, or tend to reduce the amount of energy used for cognitive processing. If a piece of information can be easily accessed whenever required, then it will not be encoded into the long-term memory storage (STM) where the process actually requires a relatively large amount of effort. 

Transactive Memory Systems and the Google Effect

As mentioned in the above section, TMS refers to the concept in which individuals tend to remember the way of accessing the information rather than retaining information itself in the LTM due to close group interactions. In fact, the Google effect describes the phenomenon in which this “transactive memory store” becomes the internet. 


In other words, when an individual encounters a situation the first time when a piece of information is required to be used, he or she will search it on the internet to find the information. Nevertheless, when the same situation is exposed the second time, as since at the first time the information is not encoded into his or her LTM because he or she knows that it can be easily found in the internet, the individual will still use the internet to “retrieve” the piece of information. 

Impacts of the Google Effect

Since the Google effect is affecting more and more individuals as the popularity of the internet increases, many impacts of it can be seen. 


The Google effect can affect the way by which individuals think. More specifically, using the internet to retrieve information to a high degree reduces the likelihood that a piece of information can be processed via complex cognitive processes. Therefore, as time passes, the ability of individuals can analyze and evaluate pieces of information can be possibly weakened. 


Moreover, the process of developing new ideas can also be interfered with due to this issue. To elaborate, new ideas often arise based on a challenge. If every time, when challenge is encountered, individuals will search for a solution online instead of solving it by themselves. In some cases, this is the correct thing to do. However, considering the context regarding the kinds of challenges for which developing new approaches of problem-solving will not bring adverse effects, constraining the approach in the way that is elaborated on the internet can prevent the rising of new approaches, or can be said as new ideas. 


Conclusion

To sum up, the internet is like a double-sided sword that can simultaneously positively and negatively affect individuals. One of the cases in which the Internet can bring adverse impacts to individuals is described through the concept of the Google effect, which is the tendency of people to rely on the Internet to retrieve information. In fact, it can affect many aspects of cognition, including the processes of analyzing and evaluating existing information and the development of new information. 



Reference

Krockow, Eva. “Is the Google Effect Messing with Your Brain? | Psychology Today.” Www.psychologytoday.com, 8 Sept. 2021, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stretching-theory/202109/is-the-google-effect-messing-your-brain.

‌ The Decision Lab. “Why Do We Forget Information That We Just Looked Up?” The Decision Lab, thedecisionlab.com/biases/google-effect.

‌ Yan, Bei, et al. “Communication in Transactive Memory Systems: A Review and Multidimensional Network Perspective.” Small Group Research, vol. 52, no. 1, 11 Dec. 2020, pp. 3–32, https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496420967764.


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