How Google Is Changing Your Memory

Memorization sometimes gets a bad rap in the education world. Yes, education IS way more than just memorizing facts, dates, formulas, spellings, and pronunciations. But you do have to get information into the brain somehow, right? Technology has brought more information to our fingertips, but does it also make us forget things more easily? The handy infographic below takes a look at how Google and its tools have changed how we find and retain information. Pretty interesting stuff – and if you can’t remember it later to tell your colleagues about what you read, you can always refer back to this page!

How Google Affects Memory

Google Services As Extensions of Knowledge

  • Google calendar reminds you of all the events in your life so you don’t have to.
  • Google Docs helps keep all of your documents at your fingertips; No more worrying where something is or if you saved what you were working on.
  • Google Search: Basically anything you could want to know about it just a click away.
  • Google analytics analyzes your sites traffic so you can optimize – without having to do any of the analytic legwork.
  • Google images allows you to use photos to find out information about the objects in the photos you take (like paintings or landmarks). No remembering necessary.
  • Google maps means you never have to remember directions or addresses.

How is Google Changing Our Memory?

Before: Without internet access, we had to do a lot of legwork to find the information we were looking for. We then found ways to memorize and remember the things we needed to know. The next time we needed to remember that information, we were likely to remember it because we took the time to research it and use mental devices (like visual memory, mneumonic devices, etc) to remember it.

Now: When we need to know something, we turn to our trusty computers and look it up. Since the information is so readily available, we don’t often take the time to encode the information into our brains. So the next time we need to remember that information, it is likely that we’ll need to look it up again

The Consequences (Good and Bad)

  • We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools.
  • Accessibility of information is great – this doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t remember it just because it is easily available.
  • Human recall is flawed – every time we remember something, we remake it somewhat. Tools like Google search act as fact checkers for us.
  • We have a lot of information stored in our computer based memories for our use. More information than ever before!
  • We no longer have the need to memorize any details – and often don’t!
  • These new habits may interfere with our development of deeper knowledge.
  • Misinformation is common on the internet.

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5 Comments

  1. Brittany Griffin

    January 23, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Googly and technology are wonderful tools. It is great to have answer to things at your finger tips, however, it is not a good idea for us to stop trying to memorize things and just depend on technology. I think it is better to have the knowledge in your brain and just use the technology to either check your self or update your self. The reason I think this is because we don’t need to rely on something and what happens if the internet goes down for a time period. It would be bad if you didn’t know what to do, because you didn’t have the internet to remind you. I think the world we live in now is way to attached to the internet. I really don’t think a lot of people would survive if we ever lost the internet for a time a period.

  2. Felipe

    January 24, 2014 at 1:46 am

    Google should be used with a highly trained educator who can guide current students to distinguish the real from fake information.

  3. Tom Cloyd MS MA LMHC

    January 24, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Fascinating article, beautifully presented! Fun to read, as well. That’s the good news.

    Now the not-so-good: This is the single best example of question-begging I’ve seen in a long time. Kudos! “How Google is changing your memory”. Oh? It is?

    Not a single supporting citation. Not a shred of evidence anywhere. Just hypothesis piled upon hypothesis.

    But I do agree with your basic idea. Consider: Google’s services are just external memory devices. We’ve seen this movie before.

    When human culture became deeply involved with the greatest external memory device of all time – writing, that’s when we began our downward descent to rampant ignorance and cognitive dysfunction. No longer did businessmen have to recall their accounts. They could simply look them up, if they could find which piece of papyrus they were written on. And then we got external calculation devices: hand calculators have reduced us to a species which can barely count. Calculations done in the mind alone surely would have gotten us to the moon far more quickly!

    OK, enough kidding. Fun while it lasted. Here’s my experience: As someone who does considerable writing and research on topics in psychology, my much-increased exposure to documents of all sorts, via Google, and especially Google Scholar, has enormously increased my productivity and my fundamental understanding of my fields of interest. I am grateful for this every day. Learning is memory, and the result of all this for me is NOT decreased memory but serious INCREASED memory.

    Your mileage may vary.

    • t

      February 1, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      As a technology professional I am frequently in situations where an Internet connection is not or has suddenly become unavailable.

      Watching educated and extrememly intelligent folks struggle with solving even the most basic problems without (Google) the Internet is eyeopening.

      Now try imagine being one of the multitude of less fortunate folks who have limitied or no access to this technology at all. Just something to think about.

  4. Vuillaume

    February 2, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Excellent …. Then we may wonder what will happen next to our brain if memorization areas are underused …
    Will they become areas for new cerebral functions like creativity ?
    Will they memorize better what is not on our hard disks nor on the cloud, for instance emotions ?
    Will Google offer brain exercises to memorize better what really matters for me ?