Internet research for data makes us believe we’re smarter, study finds

Internet search engines and encyclopedic web pages are a powerful tool for finding all kinds of information in seconds. However, our relationship with the cyber world is not a one-way street. We are also affected by our use of the Internet, even though we are not aware of it. For example, a recent article published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that just using the web to access information might make us feel smarter than we actually are.

Yale University researchers Matthew Fisher, Mariel K. Goddu, and Frank C. Keil believe that simply perceiving that we can quickly access huge amounts of information through electronic devices makes us more prone. overestimate our level of knowledge. This hypothesis is supported by one of his latest research, in which he experimented with people who actively searched for data on the Internet and others who did not have this possibility.

The different variations of the experiment show how the simple fact of having carried out an Internet research is enough for the participants to significantly overestimate their capacity to remember and use information without consulting the Web.

Questions and Scales

Fisher and his team’s research began with a first phase in which a series of questions were asked of the volunteers. However, some of these people were not allowed to use external sources of information, while the rest had to search the internet for an answer to every question. After this phase, volunteers were asked new questions related to topics that had nothing to do with what they had been asked before. Participants were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 the extent to which they believed they could provide explanations to questions related to the topic of each question asked.

The results extracted from the statistical analysis showed how people who used the Internet they were significantly more optimistic about their ability to offer explanations on the topics covered in the questions.

However, to complement the results obtained, the researchers decided to create a more complete variant of the experiment in which, before having the opportunity to seek an answer to a question with or without the help of the Internet, all participants were asked to rate their perception. of their own level of knowledge with a scale between 1 and 7, in the same way they should in the last phase of the experiment.

In this way it could be verified that in the two experimental groups (those who would use the Internet and those who would not) there were no significant differences in how they perceived their own level of knowledge.. It was after the phase that some people searched the net for information when these differences appeared.

More experiences on the subject

In another version of the experiment, the researchers focused on making sure that members of both groups saw exactly the same information, in this way to see how the simple act of searching for data on the Internet influences people on the Internet. an active way, regardless of what is found.

To do this, some people were given instructions on how to search for specific information about the question on a specific website where that data was found, while other people saw these documents directly with the answer, without their give the opportunity to search for it. People with the ability to search the internet for information continued to show a clear propensity to believe a little smarter, judging by how they rated themselves on a scale of 1 to 7.

The test that the volunteers underwent had a few additional variations to control in the best possible way the variables that could contaminate the results. For example, in different experiments different search engines were used. And, in an alternate version of the test, the score for one’s own level of knowledge was replaced with a final phase in which volunteers had to look at several brain scan images and decide which of these photographs most closely resembled his own brain. According to the rest of the results, people who searched the internet tended to choose the images in which the brain showed the most activation.

What made participants overestimate their knowledge was not the fact that they found an answer to a question on the Internet, but the simple fact of being able to search for information on the Internet. The researchers realized this by checking how people who had to find an answer that was impossible to find on the internet tended to overestimate as much as those who found what they were looking for.

A price to pay

These results seem to speak of a mephistophelic contract between us and the Internet. Search engines give us the virtual possibility of knowing everything if we have an electronic device nearby, but at the same time, it could make us more blind to our limits in finding answers on our own, without the help of anything. nor anyone. In a way, this brings us back to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Perhaps ours has given us the opportunity to believe that things are simpler than they really are, and it can even be very useful in the vast majority of cases. However, this could become a problem when we have such a powerful resource as the Internet on hand.

You should not get lost and end up sacrificing yourself at the altar of God god our ability to judge our abilities. After all, the network of networks is large enough that it is difficult to find the point where our neurons end and fiber optic cables begin.

bibliographical references

  • Fisher, M., Goddu, MK and Keil, FC (2015). Look for explanations: How the Internet inflates internal knowledge estimates. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, view online at http: // …

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