How the Internet makes you think that you are Smart

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Across varied experiments, researchers from Imperial College London showed that people having easy access to the internet, think that they are far better at explaining things compared to the people without internet access. It’s like people tend to confuse the capability of accessing information through Google with the capability of recalling information from their own brains.

Most of these experiments had different themes, and they comprised of over 900 volunteers. The researchers conducted the study by dividing these volunteers in two different groups; one group was asked “Why does a golf ball have dimples?” And “Why are only six balls bowled in an over whilst playing cricket?” They were allowed to use the internet to assist them to search for the answers of their questions.

The second group was also provided with identical questions, but on the contrary, they were not allowed to use the internet for assistance. Next, both the groups were asked the question – Why 999 has been set as emergency number? Repeatedly, the volunteers that were permitted to make use of the internet evaluate their ability to answer unrelated questions more efficiently compared to those who didn’t use the internet. Mr. Matthew Fisher, a renowned web researcher said that people are bloating what they think they know. He added that the internet is an effective source where you get answers to whatever query you enter and you basically have the world’s knowledge is at your fingertips.

Nowadays, with more and more usage of the internet, the line is becoming dimmer between what you are actually aware of and what you think you know. This is bothersome to Mr. Fisher, as it means that there are more chances that the people will tend to overestimate their own capabilities in all those situations where it will matter that they are aware of exactly what they are discussing about. It is very difficult to have precise personal knowledge and the internet might be making things even more stringent.

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In another experiment both the groups were asked, in advance, to give themselves ratings about their capabilities to offer an explanation to their answers; as expected both the groups had the same scoring. But, after one group was allowed to use the internet, its self-evaluation increased considerably. And the scores of the second group decreased slightly.

The team members, who were not allowed to use the internet, got a printout of the text, from identical websites, that the internet group was instructed to find out. (In order to cut down the effect of digital vs. print graphics, the selected web pages tend to have minimal visuals.) Another time, the internet group gave themselves better scores for the task which has no relevance to the subject of their respective searches. But, what would have happened if online searching reminded the first group’s members about a tool with easy access? In order to negate this possible effect, the researchers inquired the participants, whether they feel comfortable in replying questions belonging from an unrelated topic without using any outside sources. Once again, the internet team rated them higher.

The scientists went one step further and thought of denting the confidence of the internet team by posing a hindrance in their search results. The researchers offered the searchers either no results or  results that had no relevancy. But, following unsuccessful searches, the internet team ranked their answering capabilities much higher on the questions which were unrelated to the search subject matters.

One of the scientists said that the psychological effects of being in a search mode on the internet may be so effective that people tend to feel smarter, even in the situation where their online searches had no searches.

Mr. Marcel Bullinga, Dutch Futurist, is of the view that the internet can make us feel both intelligent and stupid simultaneously. In the coming years, we will have a time in the world will be dominated by transparent 3D mobile media cloud. In this cloud, highly intelligent machines will be put into use to whom we will delegate both intricate and easy tasks. Therefore, we will no longer need all the skills that we, commonly us today. But, on the positive side, we will gain a skill set that will assist us in making smart choices.

Mr. Fisher also said that according to him the internet, without a doubt, is beneficial but at the same time he did caution that those people who are making use of the internet are less likely to acknowledge the gaps in their comprehension.

Lissa is a freelance writer by profession (currently writes for Followthesteps) with a passion for writing on latest innovations and other interesting ideas. She is an active member and contributor at some of the reputed tech magazines & communities.

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