The internet is making us think we are smarter than we are – while it’s actually making us dumber: Study

We’re not as smart as we think we are. The internet is tricking us. However, there is an easy way that you can make your brain step up its game.

New research has found that easy access to the internet has led people to believe that they are more intelligent than they really are. This is because Google is very smart. Google has all of the answers. Because we know how to Google things, we think we have all the answers too.

The trouble is, there is a difference between knowing something and knowing how to look something up.

“When we’re constantly connected to knowledge, the boundaries between internal and external knowledge begin to blur and fade,” says Adrian Ward from the University of Texas. “We mistake the internet’s knowledge for our own.”

His research found that when people use Google to look up information they become more confident in their ability to come up with the right answers – even on those occasions where they are not using the search engine.

Researchers tested participants on their general knowledge, giving them the option of answering questions from memory or by Googling the answers. The results showed that people who used the internet didn’t just get more answers right, but they also had much more confidence that they actually knew the current answers even without looking them up.

Furthermore, many participants actually believed that they had just known correct information on their own – forgetting that they had just Googled it.

“Using Google to answer general knowledge questions artificially inflates peoples’ confidence in their own ability to remember and process information and leads to erroneously optimistic predictions regarding how much they will know without the internet,” concluded Ward.

“When information is at our fingertips, we may mistakenly believe that it originated from inside our heads.”

Not only can the internet make us think that we are smarter than we are, but it can also make us dumber than we are. Another recent study, also conducted at the University of Texas, measured the brain power of over 700 smartphone users to see how well they could perform on a variety of tests and problems to evaluate their cognitive abilities.

At random, participants were asked to either keep their phones in their pockets, on their desks, or in another room altogether.

The results showed that the participants who put their phones in a different room, performed better that those who kept their smartphones in their pockets, and the people who had their smartphones in their pockets outperformed the ones who had their phones on top of a desk.

The researchers concluded that the mere presence of the phone was enough to diminish cognitive ability – and the closer it is, the worse it gets.

So, while you are capable of doing math in your head, spelling words correctly, and remembering information – you are less likely to do any of those things well if you are holding a tiny computer in your hand. When your phone is right there, your brain gets lazy. Because it knows that it can. Why struggle with something you can easily look up? However, when your device is physically distant from you, your brain starts to work harder.

So, it’s a good thing that you turn your phone off and leave it in your pocket or your bag during job interviews. You do shut your phone off, right? Answering or looking at your phone can be a deal breaker in interviews. However, even if you don’t actually use it, the mere presence of the device can diminish your performance.

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