Washington: Think you are very smart? You may be browsing the Internet too much!
Actively searching the Internet inflates our sense of the knowledge we actually possess, a new study has claimed.
Because the Internet surpasses any person in accessibility, speed, and breadth of knowledge, the Internet may be treated as an all-knowing expert transactive memory partner, researchers said.
However, researchers from the Yale University in US suggest that these same features may exacerbate potentially negative effects of transactive memory, in particular conflating knowledge for which a partner is responsible with knowledge one actually possesses.
Each of the experiments had an induction phase followed by a self-assessment phase.
In the induction phase, participants rated their ability to explain the answers to common questions after either searching the Internet to confirm their explanation, or being specifically instructed not to use the Internet.
In the subsequent self-assessment phase, participants were asked to rate how well they could explain the answers to groups of questions from a variety of domains that were unrelated to the induction phase questions.
Participants who searched the Internet in the induction phase rated themselves as being able to give better explanations than participants who were not allowed to search the Internet.
This result was obtained even when participants in the Internet condition were given a specific web source to find and participants in the no Internet condition were shown text from that same website.
In other words, searching for explanations online led to increases in self-assessed knowledge even when both groups had access to the same explanatory content, and when Internet search did not involve effortful processes like choosing between sources.
Higher self-assessed knowledge was also observed following unsuccessful Internet searches (eg, searches that did not yield an answer to the question).
The results suggest that it is the act of searching online that promotes increases in self-assessed knowledge, and this effect is limited to domains where the Internet might plausibly be of use, researchers said.
Together, this series of experiments demonstrates that actively searching the Internet inflates our sense of the knowledge we actually possess because we fail to recognise the extent to which we rely on external sources for information.
While similar illusions of knowledge have been obtained for other external information sources, these illusions may be particularly strong for the Internet because online information is easily and nearly constantly accessible, is retrieved quickly, and covers an incredible breadth of content, researchers said.
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.