How do we optimize our brains in the Age of Connectivity? Do we need to use up valuable space remembering information that we can easily access on a handheld device? Have we already learned to optimize our brains without knowing it? We have indeed, according to a study published in the Journal of Science by a team led by Betsy Sparrow at Columbia.
Sparrow’s study demonstrated that people who thought they would have access to Google didn’t end up remembering information as well as people who thought they would not have information at their fingertips. So is Google truly making us stupid? Not exactly. The people who anticipated having access to Google remember how to find it. In other words, they used their memory more as a retrieval mechanism than as a big storage dump.
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According to Konnikova, “Holmes has files that he accesses, and he says, ‘Watson, look up my file for this case.’ So he remembers that he has the file. He remembers that there was a case. He doesn’t necessarily remember all of these details.”
In the video below, Konnikova explains how you can think of Google “as this vastly expanded Holmesian filing system.” So ask yourself: What are the things that you want to remember? Then focus on remembering how to access them.