Talk:Google effect

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It's not finished, by a long shot[edit]

This isn't an article about just the Betsy Sparrow study, although I'm sure others can find more information about that study and surely improve on what I did.

The phenomenon has probably been around as long as Internet search engines, and I just wasn't getting anywhere with the time I had finding the history of it. Maybe I can do more on the history later. It was hard enough just finding what Wikipedia would consider reliable sources.Vchimpanzee · talk · contributions · 20:46, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Isn't this effect similar to "calculator effect" (if there is such a term)? People nowadays are bad at mental reckoning compared to say, during abacus / slide-rule eras. Berdaulat (talk) 05:40, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

Einstein has been quoted as saying, "Never memorize something that you can look up." Wouldn't this indicate a prior history to the concept? JeramieHicks (talk) 17:28, 16 October 2012 (UTC)


I changed the wording

The Google effect is a change in how people remember that has resulted from the use of Google and other search engines.


The Google effect is the increased use of Internet search engines such as Google as a substitute for memory.

Another editor revised this to:

"The Google effect is the tendency to forget information that can be easily found using Internet search engines such as Google as a substitute for memory.

with the comment "I believe Macrakis has misnterpreted the definition of "Google effect" to mean this is intentional...". That certainly wasn't what I intended. The main motivation for my edit was to say something substantive about the "change" (what sort of change?) which is left vague in the original wording. The main issue with the newest wording is that the phrase "as a substitute for memory" isn't attached to anything in the sentence. (In my wording, it was the "use of search a substitute for memory.") Let me try another wording.... --Macrakis (talk) 19:14, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

It looks good now. I knew my orignal wording wasn't exactly what was desired, but I think the lead sentence now accurately describes the conclusions of the study.Vchimpanzee · talk · contributions · 18:33, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

Kaspersky study[edit]

I can't find a lot of independent information, and some of you out there may know more about how to write about scientific studies. I just got things started.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 15:40, 11 November 2015 (UTC)

Digital amnesia[edit]

(discussion below was on User Talk:Macrakis; I moved it here, where it's more appropriate)

You contributed to "Google effect", or at least the talk page discussion. I could really use some help with incorporating the Kaspersky study of what they called "digital amnesia". Other people may know more about how to write about scientific studies.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 15:42, 11 November 2015 (UTC)

Well, there are several issues here:
  • the article should reference the study itself, not a news article about the study;
  • the commercial sponsor of the study (Kaspersky) probably shouldn't be mentioned in the body of the article at all, just the footnote;
  • this article has not been published in a reputable journal, so doesn't really count as a Reliable Source;
  • it doesn't even name its authors!
  • it is just a survey; to be a "study" of the phenomenon, the questions should be formulated, and the answers interpreted, by someone competent;
  • its main point is to promote online security from, e.g., um, Kaspersky.
Overall, I don't think it warrants more than one short sentence, e.g., "A recent unreviewed survey claims that ... ((footnote))". Normally, I'd say it doesn't even belong in WP, but given the press it's gotten, it probably should be mentioned simply so that people don't feel the need to re-add it. --Macrakis (talk) 22:30, 16 November 2015 (UTC)
I just now noticed this. Thanks for your advice. This is far worse than I thought. I actually thought we weren't supposed to cite the study. Anyway, I pretty much have to use the quote or I can't connect Google effect with digital amnesia. I'll compromise and identify it as unreviewed, but I pretty much have to mention Kaspersky to distinguish it from any other "studies".— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 14:58, 19 November 2015 (UTC)
Why do you think we shouldn't cite the survey? Always better to go to the source, though in this case I agree that we should also include newspaper sources to show notability. But we really need to qualify this strongly. How about "A recent unreviewed survey sponsored by a security vendor calls this 'digital amnesia' ... ((footnote))". --Macrakis (talk) 16:11, 19 November 2015 (UTC)
The survey also uses the term "Google effect", so we need to make sure both terms are used. As for not going straight to the survey, I thought that was normal around here.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 18:32, 19 November 2015 (UTC)
Also, Kaspersky came up with the term. I think we have to say that.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 18:37, 19 November 2015 (UTC)
I just don't want WP to become a branch of Kaspersky's PR department. It's surely too soon to decide that "digital amnesia" will catch on as a term ("Wikipedia considers the enduring notability of persons and events."; WP does not predict notability). And the term has been used in other senses for several years now. --Macrakis (talk) 02:11, 20 November 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I've been thinking about it. What is there now needs to stay there. When we have a real study we can reduce Kaspersky's contribution to the origin of the term, but the term "digital amnesia" is in use. Perhaps it's not the wide use you think is important, but I guess time will tell. I get what you mean about "crystal" but it looks like we have enough to at least mention it. At least we can't identify one use of "digital amnesia" as primary. The other use was regarded as insignificant in a previous deletion discussion.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 18:20, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

"Explanation" Section[edit]

The section as it currently stands is really just a summary of the original Sparrow article, which is not the goal of the wiki page. I propose changing the title of this section to "Phenomenon" and making clearer/more explicit the key findings of the research. For example, one key finding was that subjects tended to remember the location of the information when lead to believe it would be saved; it is currently buried within the summary of the explanation section, and therefore very easy to miss. I do agree that the relationship to transactive memory is important, so I think it'd be best to have a "transactive memory" or "explanation" subsection under "Phenomenon." History can come afterwards. Jennjiyoun (talk) 05:59, 19 April 2016 (UTC)

Agreed. This seems to have been a problem for years that was never really addressed. I would definitely suggest summarizing the Sparrow study section in order to make the key finding easily accessible.Redmach197 (talk) 15:01, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
I was wondering if you've thought about renaming the section "Summary of Sparrow Article" instead of "Explanation". I also think the summary of the article is important and follows well from the history section. I am not sure if other wiki users will understand what is meant by titling the section "phenomenon". In terms of emphasizing key findings, perhaps you can add a section titled "Key Findings from Sparrow Article". Another idea would be to create a summary and then a key findings section for the other research mentioned, the Kaspersky Study. Just some thoughts. Stephanie Parrado (talk) 18:12, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
Also, in terms of the transactive memory section you've talked about, perhaps you can talk about external memory and make a link to External memory (psychology). I will be working on that page and will most likely have a link to this page, the Google effect. Stephanie Parrado (talk) 18:38, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
My concern with making a section specifically to summarize the the Sparrow article is that, well, that's not really the point of this page, is it? The purpose is to explain what the Google effect, and while the Sparrow article is definitely a large part of that, I don't think this is the place to tell people what the four stages of the original experiment was, and how it was conducted; what matters is what effects they found, and readers can go look at the original article if they're curious to learn more or want to evaluate the research themselves. I guess I did a poor job of making clear what I wanted to do in this section; my goal is to shift the focus of that section from what it currently is (a summary of Sparrow) to an objective overview of the phenomenon itself, and cite some of the more recent replications and follow-up research so that it's less reliant on one primary source. Jennjiyoun (talk) 16:19, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
Below is a draft of the proposed edits I am planning.
The original 2011 study used a four-part experimental paradigm to reveal three main findings. First, people are primed to think of computers when asked general knowledge questions, even when they know the correct answer. In addition, this effect is especially pronounced if the question is difficult and the answer is unknown. Secondly, people do not tend to remember information if they believe it will be available to look up later. By contrast, an explicit instruction to remember the material does not have a significant effect on recall. Lastly, if the information is saved, people are much more likely to remember where the information is located than to recall the information itself. In addition, people tend to remember either the fact or the location, but not both; this effect persists even when the information is more memorable than name of the location. (Sparrow, Olson)
A 2012 study by Lav R. Varshney has since proposed that the Google effect can also be seen in doctoral theses, claiming that a longitudinal increase in the number of references cited reflects a tendency for improved memory of where to find relevant information than of the information itself. (Varshney) Furthermore, Dong et al. described a related phenomenon in which information learned through the internet is recalled less accurately and with less confidence than information learned via a physical book. The study also found differences in the neural processes underlying the two forms of memory. (Dong et al.)
Transactive Memory
See also: transactive memory, external memory
Sparrow et al. originally claimed that reliance on computers is a form of transactive memory, because people share information easily, forget what they think will be available later, and remember the location of information better than the information itself. They posited that people and their computers are becoming “interconnected systems”; the same underlying processes used in traditional transactive memory to learn who in our social networks know what, is also being extended to encompass what a computer knows and how to find it. (Sparrow)
However, several researchers have questioned whether the Google effect is a form of transactive memory, arguing that no transaction is going on between the person and the computer. Therefore, computer networks and the Internet cannot be conceived as a distributed cognitive system. Rather, computers are merely tools exploited to help trigger a memory or to easily look up information. Unlike in traditional transactive memory, the information is not lost without the Internet, but merely slower and more difficult to find. (Huebner, Merritt)
I obviously haven't finished formatting the citations and links yet, but I figured it'd be good to put up a draft edit in case people had suggestions/comments. Jennjiyoun (talk) 18:08, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

Although I do agree that this particular wiki page should mainly focus on the effects of Sparrow's study, some explanation or allusion to the experiment (even if only 2-3 sentences) would be beneficial. That being said, I think the “Phenomenon” title should be changed to “Key Findings of Research” - that way you can include the main points of Sparrow’s original study and then include a subsection of “Related Phenomenon” where you include the studies of the other psychologists you have mentioned. Within your edit, I think you should also consider including hyperlinks to other Wiki pages such as “paradigm”, “primed”, etc. Overall, I think you did a good job delineating the main points and implications of this study, providing greater fluidity and fluency for the reader. Jmt59 (talk) 17:11, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

What if I included a few lines about the Sparrow study in the History section? I'm still wary of calling it "key findings" or something of the like, because I think that'll still read as if this article is about the Sparrow research. Yes, that's the main source of scientific research we have, but the Google effect itself exists independent of that particular study, if that makes any sense. Future research/ replications/ follow-ups will serve to make the effect even more independent of the Sparrow study, although maybe that's better left for the future if/when that evidence turns up. I'm not sure. Jennjiyoun (talk) 20:30, 30 April 2016 (UTC)
Oh, and as for the hyperlinks, thank you for the suggestion--I'll definitely do that. Jennjiyoun (talk) 20:31, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

I am confused on the Varshney study concerning the doctoral theses. The increase in number of references can mean an increase in accessibility to previously unavailable ideas and information without internet, but I don't see how it can be connected to remembering less information and instead remembering where the references are located. I did not read the study yet, so maybe you can explain a little more in detail how the google effect is manifest through this study so the causal wikipedia reader can understand? With Dong's experiment, why do you think information learned on the internet is recalled less accurately and with less confidence? I think this has less to do with the google effect and more with general caution/distrust for information found on the internet compared to published textbooks. Again, I did not read this study so forgive me if I am understanding this incorrectly. This last sentence "The study also found differences in the neural processes underlying the two forms of memory" does not have an explanation and left me more confused. Perhaps you could add one more sentence after this describing the differences if they were listed, or omitting the sentence if they were not listed? Samliu365 (talk) 00:51, 1 May 2016 (UTC)

Varshney's argument was that an increased number of references as well as an increased range of the age of cited documents, without a corresponding increase in time spent completing a degree, indicated a transactive role of research literature. The claim as I understand it is that more references indicates more memory of where the information is located (i.e. which papers) as opposed to the information in the papers itself. Does that help clarify it?
As for the Dong study, their hypothesis was that while the Internet helps find information more readily, it also leads to hastier and therefore poorer encoding, causing less accurate and less confident recall. Accuracy was measured by correct responses in a recall stage, and confidence by a self-reported accuracy estimate. You may raise a valid question in asking whether general distrust of the Internet plays into this effect, but since the researchers neither mentioned or measured this, it's really just speculation within the current data. The study did enumerate the various brain regions that showed differentiated activity--I didn't include it in my draft because I wasn't sure if listing a bunch of brain regions would help, but I can definitely include it. That said, I originally planned on putting this study in because it was another perspective/experiment on the effects of the Internet on memory, but now I'm questioning whether it's too unrelated/tangential to be included here. Thoughts? Jennjiyoun (talk) 03:03, 1 May 2016 (UTC)

Update: I've rolled out the changes now, including an expansion of the history section for a more in-depth discussion of the Sparrow study (I basically moved a summarized version of the original explanation section in there) and the above drafted phenomenon section along with a more specified explanation of what brain areas were differentially activated in the Dong study. I'm still open to suggestions/comments, though! Jennjiyoun (talk) 03:59, 1 May 2016 (UTC)

Additional Citations[edit]

I plan to add some additional citations to this article so that it reflects some more recent research based on the original Sparrow et al. article, and also relies less exclusively on that single primary source. Some sources I'm thinking of include: Social Cognition in the Internet Age: Same As It Ever Was? (Sparrow & Chatman, 2013), Behavioural and brain responses related to Internet search and memory (Dong & Potenza, 2015), the Transactive Memory section of the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Psychology, Focused Search and Retrieval: The Impact of Technology on Our Brains (Olson, 2012), The Google effect in doctoral theses (Varshney, 2011) and Transactive Memory Reconstructed: Rethinking Wegner's Research Paradigm (Huebner, 2016). Jennjiyoun (talk) 05:59, 19 April 2016 (UTC)

Update: the specific studies I ended up adding were Olson (2012), Varshney (2012), Dong (2015), Huebner (2016) and Huebner (2013). Jennjiyoun (talk) 03:57, 1 May 2016 (UTC)

new redirect[edit]

Is it worth adding a re-direct to this page from "google effect(s) on memory"? That was the title of the Sparrow paper, so I think it could be useful, but I'm unsure how many people would search just "google effect' versus "google effect on memory". Jennjiyoun (talk) 06:02, 19 April 2016 (UTC)

I'm not sure if it's all that necessary because it seems as though this article is covering "google effects on memory." If you plan to include a sub-heading within this article to elaborate on the memory effects, perhaps that would be more beneficial! Then you can easily reference that paper and provide a brief synopsis. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cnwobu (talkcontribs) 13:30, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

I think this change would be beneficial. I feel as if more people would search "google effect on memory" compared to "google effect" simply because most people might not know that there is such a thing as the "google effect." I don't think that there is a downside to making this change, so go for it! Alex21golf (talk) 01:00, 22 April 2016 (UTC)

So I tried googling 'google effect on memory' and this wiki page is about the fourth or fifth link that comes up--so it looks like maybe it isn't all that necessary after all. Jennjiyoun (talk) 17:59, 29 April 2016 (UTC)