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Google

Google 'Makes People Think They Are Smarter Than They Are' 227

HughPickens.com writes Karen Knapton reports at The Telegraph that according to a study at Yale University, because they have the world's knowledge at their fingertips, search engines like Google or Yahoo make people think they are smarter than they actually are giving people a 'widely inaccurate' view of their own intelligence that can lead to over-confidence when making decisions. In a series of experiments, participants who had searched for information on the internet believed they were far more knowledgeable about a subject that those who had learned by normal routes, such as reading a book or talking to a tutor. Internet users also believed their brains were sharper. "The Internet is such a powerful environment, where you can enter any question, and you basically have access to the world's knowledge at your fingertips," says lead researcher Matthew Fisher. "It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source. When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the Internet." In the tests searching for answers online leads to an illusion such that externally accessible information is conflated with knowledge "in the head" (PDF). This holds true even when controlling for time, content, and search autonomy during the task. "The Internet is an enormous benefit in countless ways, but there may be some trade-offs that aren't immediately obvious and this may be one of them," concludes Fisher. "Accurate personal knowledge is difficult to achieve, and the Internet may be making that task even harder."
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Google 'Makes People Think They Are Smarter Than They Are'

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  • by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:12PM (#49392379)

    Being smart and/or intelligent isn't the same as knowing a lot of facts. Google can help you keep a lot of facts at your fingertips. The smart part (or intelligent part) is being able to learn about complex things, applying things you already know to new situations, etc.

    Google may ruin a game of Trivial Pursuit (or bar trivia or whatever) but it isn't a substitute for doing a good job planning a process, designing a machine, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In addition to what you said knowledge of subject does not mean never having to consult a reference. Chemists used to have CRC handbook on their shelves, for a reason. Many a C programmer has an "in a nutshell" reference handy etc, or used to have before Google.

      Its one thing to know I need to use "newtons law of cooling" to solve this problem and look up the specific formula, its another if you are searching "how to determine how long it will take before items can be handled safely out of the parts oven"

      • Many a C programmer has an "in a nutshell" reference handy etc, or used to have before Google.

        I suddenly became an amazing programmer right around the time StackOverflow got popular...

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:30PM (#49392573)
      Sometimes being smart is knowing how to access the resources needed to do obscure things that aren't one's normal responsibiltiies. That said, relying on Google to point one toward the answers is not the best approach, at least for one's career, as answers on the Internet may be wrong or due to so many askers relative to answerers, might be hard to find.

      When I was in elementary school we were taught how to use the library to find what we needed. Most people don't get the point of the lesson; it's not teaching children how to find books, it's teaching children how to find information. Lessons learned back then apply all of the time, even though it's much less common for me to look at a paper book for my information.
      • > Sometimes being smart is knowing how to access the resources needed to do obscure things

        No. Being knowledgeable about a subject is being able to make use of reference sources.

    • Precisely. Knowledge does not equal intelligence. Many IQ tests confuse that. All IQ tests should be nothing but puzzles - maybe puzzles with more than one answer.
      • The internet can bring us information but we have to develop critical judgment on our own. That takes experience. However I think for someone willing to put in the effort, having a vast array of knowledge available can be very useful and an aid in the process of developing thinking skills.

        I like it a lot more today when I can quickly look up nearly anything at all. The old days, when it took a trip to the library to consult likely out-of-date reference books, were certainly not as good.

    • by quintessencesluglord ( 652360 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:44PM (#49392681)

      Adding-

      Often the web is used to supplement thing you already know, or perhaps have forgotten a step in the process. Being able to reference how to remove a set of brakes doesn't make you qualified to work in an autoshop, and as anyone who has suffered through a Chilton manual knows, the example given never matches your own circumstance. Ever.

      Further, this gets into the philosophical questions about knowledge, and what does Epistemology really mean. Reading a book about WWII isn't the same as storming the beaches of Normandy, so the nature of this knowledge is heavily abstracted. Consider this the answer to the dolts that bleat out "he plural of anecdote is not data". My personal experience means more than your abstraction.

    • Being smart and/or intelligent isn't the same as knowing a lot of facts. Google can help you keep a lot of facts at your fingertips. The smart part (or intelligent part) is being able to learn about complex things, applying things you already know to new situations, etc.

      Not only this, but being intelligent also means knowing what facts to filter out. If you Google airplanes and see a post by someone that says contrails contain substances to turn us all into obedient brainless zombies, you should use your i

      • but look for corroborating evidence from trustworthy sources before fashioning a protective anti-contrail aluminum foil hat.

        You should have used Google. You would have learned that tin foil hats don't protect against the chemicals being dispersed via CIA-operated jets through the contrails. Dummy. You need a mask.

        The issue I have with the study is the conclusion about people who are "left on their own" thinking they are smarter. They're comparing Google use to book use, and the people who use books to learn were NOT "left on their own". Yeah, someone who is left on their own isn't as smart as someone who uses books to learn t

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Google can help you keep a lot of facts at your fingertips.

      Facts? It doesn't even do that. It puts a lot of random noise at your fingertips, only a small proportion of which are factually accurate and not biased by the interpretation de jour.

      The signal to noise ratio of search engines is nothing short of appalling, and it's made even worse in cases like Google by their deliberate skewing of results to reflect their vested interest, ie. advertising. The web exhibits swarm behavior, always reflecting the m

      • Interpreting the results of a Google search are part of 'Googling it' and is more or less what you describe. e.g. never trust Wikipedia.

    • Thank you. A more accurate headline might be, "Google Makes People Think They Have Memorized a Lot More Useless Crap Than They Have." But that doesn't have nearly the same click-baitiness as the original.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. I know plenty of "smart" people that are just good at reading and remembering things. One guy I know can tell you where a sentence appears on a page of a 300+ page book he read the night before, but he isn't very good at applying knowledge, e.g., he's terrible at fixing things or doing much problem solving.

      So, just because you can read, retain and regurgitate things doesn't make you intelligent, IMO. It means you're good at reading and remembering things and that's about it. The whole "book smart"

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @02:51PM (#49393181)

      Being smart and/or intelligent isn't the same as knowing a lot of facts.

      There's also a very underappreciated value to experience. You can be the smartest person in the world, and have all the world's facts at your fingertips, but if you've never experienced something personally, there's a good chance you just don't have the mental framework to begin to understand that situation. This is how you get very smart people explaining to actual (very experienced) poor people how they have no business "letting" themselves be poor, and must just be inferior humans in some way. This is how you get "mansplaining" and "whitesplaining".

      Sometimes the best thing to do, even if you are a really smart person (heck, particularly if you are a really smart person), is to STFU and listen to people who have different experiences than you. If a lot of them are saying the same thing, but it doesn't jibe with the information you have, you are almost certainly missing something.

  • Human Intelligence [lmgtfy.com]

    "I'm armed with Google and have a Masters Degree in speed reading." <--- Every internet know it all

  • How is this news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson@gma i l .com> on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:13PM (#49392393) Journal
    How is this news? Do Yalies suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect?
  • Yep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:15PM (#49392415)
    The internet, where anyone is 5 minutes of research away from being an expert, usually by managing to confirm whatever 'common sense' belief they had going in.

    Granted, offline you also have people who take old misconceptions or simplifications, and will fight tooth and nail against anyone about them, even actual experts, but the internet seems to have really amplified the process. It probably does not help that over the last few decades we have REALLY devalued actual expertise on topics. The people most likely to get their ideas repeated are pop versions of their field, people who can create accessible and pandering content rather than dry but actually correct publications.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The internet is just a terrible source for up-to-date information. For a start, in a search it's rather hard to weed out what is "current best-practice". Google search doesn't even have knowledge of date, and even if it did it doesn't have content knowledge of date. I can publish the world view of 1960 in a document and it looks like it happened today as far as Google is concerned. Worse, the ranking is based on links. Linkage isn't knowledge driven, it's interest driven. It might not be driven by anything

      • The internet is just a terrible source for up-to-date information.

        Wait, what?!?

        What better source do you know? Do you know how we used to find up-to-date information before the Internet? We didn't, we relied on months old printed articles or years old books.

  • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:16PM (#49392425)

    Define "smarter". Natural intelligence + easily accessible and disposable facts does not make one more or less intelligent. The problem is the old school definition of intelligence was tested through the ability to recount facts. It was not a reliable indicator of the level of intelligence of an individual. Whether gathered from a book or a search, facts are not always useful without the ability to understand, interpret, and deduce what is not represented by the facts.

    • I think the intended take away was that people who rely on the internet as an external source of information over estimate their own knowledge even when that resource is unavailable to them regardless of how intelligent they are.

      • I think the intended take away was that people who rely on the internet as an external source of information over estimate their own knowledge even when that resource is unavailable to them regardless of how intelligent they are.

        That's a completely different set of skills though. That relates to the individuals ability to retain information and regurgitate it. I had comprehensive testing done on myself and in most natural intelligence areas I was 97th/98th percentile but I can't read a paragraph from a book and regurgitate the information immediately. Take that identical test and make it a picture in a book instead of words and I can tell you almost every detail.

        Modern understanding of intelligence, various difference in auditor

        • I have a brother that likes to pose convincing, plausible, yet false ideas to otherwise bright people and particularly likes to pick on Mensa members and most of the time he is able to convince them he is correct. I'm not saying that their science is good just what I thought they were proposing.

          • I have a brother that likes to pose convincing, plausible, yet false ideas to otherwise bright people and particularly likes to pick on Mensa members and most of the time he is able to convince them he is correct. I'm not saying that their science is good just what I thought they were proposing.

            Most Mensa members are just like everyone else, the only difference is that they can solve puzzles a bit better. It doesn't make then any less susceptible to being conned by a good story.

            • You are right but he likes to pick on the ones that think they are smarter than everyone else he finds it amusing. Poorly written inaccurate or incomplete wikipedia articles are another source of amusement for him.

    • Precisely. Who is smarter: someone who tries to keep a whole domain of knowledge in their head just in case they need part of it, or someone who knows where to find the information in ANY domain and critically analyse it for accuracy?

      It seems to me that the study missed the mark: what they SHOULD have been studying was whether Google increases or decreases people's ability to think critically about a subject. It's possible that people put the blind faith in Google that they used to put in academic journal

  • Not so new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:19PM (#49392459)

    Before the Internet, we said the same things about people who relied on books for knowledge.

    Also, xkcd. [xkcd.com]

  • How is it not your own knowledge after you've internalized it? Just because you searched for it on google or some other search engine as opposed to a book doesn't make it somehow not information you've retained. This is the stupidest thing I've heard in a long time.

    • The issue is, with 24/7 access, your brain opts not to internalize the information, but only the pointer TO the information.
      • Re:what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Em Adespoton ( 792954 ) <slashdotonly.1.adespoton@spamgourmet.com> on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:49PM (#49392725) Homepage Journal

        Which is the smart thing to do -- offload data storage to some external less mutable source that's available 24/7. Sure -- the source content could change/vanish -- but at least there are checksums and validation methods available. Inside your brain? Not so much. I don't really see this as an issue, more of a feature. Save your brain for managing the pointers and handling the data that's actually important to everyday life.

      • Re:what? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @02:14PM (#49392903) Homepage Journal

        That's not unique to Google. Before Google, I'd look up stuff in reference manuals. If I didn't use it regularly, I'd forget it, but I knew where the books were. Google is just a more convenient version of that.

        • But at least the reference manual was a reliable source. You may or may not internalize the information, but the information was probably correct. The "experts" you are relying on from the internet might not be anything more than someone who is passing on information that someone else posted on the internet, or just making things up themselves. When you take information from someone who is an authority and has actually applied that information and verified it for themselves, you're better off than just assu
          • So far, the tech stuff that I used to use reference manuals for, has been reliable, though I suppose I could get into trouble if I happened on the wrong site.

      • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 )

        Really? You never keep any data you read in your brain? If that's true there are bigger issues at stake. I don't have 24/7 access to google and wouldn't want it, so maybe I'm the anomaly. I just don't see this "study" as worth the time it took to perform. Even if it is accurate, who the hell cares?

  • People always think they're smarter than they other... other people that is... I'm infallible.

    • Which results in "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.". If you are absolutely certain about anything, it is time to figure out why you are so certain.
  • The article seems to conflate content knowledge with being smart.

    I would argue that raw analytical skills are much more important than content knowledge. Being able to regurgitate information is only marginally useful, and its most important value is that you're equipped with a framework and a lens through which to examine problems.

    However, absent analytical capabilities, your ability to use your knowledge and past experiences to solve problems is severely limited.

    Google makes people think they are knowledg

    • I suppose knowing all the different species of snakes doesn't really make you very smart. However, some knowledge, (e.g. how to build a nuclear reactor), probably does imply intelligence.

      I don't think all knowledge is equal. I think some knowledge is trivially easy to understand and other knowledge can be very difficult to understand. Google drastically increases the accessibility of nearly all knowledge, which basically gives the trivially comprehensible knowledge to everyone for free.

      Try to read the wi

      • I suppose knowing all the different species of snakes doesn't really make you very smart. However, some knowledge, (e.g. how to build a nuclear reactor), probably does imply intelligence.

        I'd say knowing which species of snake live in your area, and how to tell the difference between venomous and non-venomous look-a-likes (coral snake or eastern king snake? water moccasin or banded water snake?) makes you smart - you've prepared yourself for what we referred to as "activities of daily life" when I worked in physical rehab/therapy. Although running across a snake and having to ID it as potentially lethal vs nonlethal isn't a daily occurence (at least I hope not... and I live in the woods).

        • I'm not saying it's bad to know your snakes. The reason I came up with the example, is because I was just reading wikipedia articles about snakes at the time. My point is that the information is really easy to understand (i.e. even dumb people are capable of doing it). The fact that you know about snakes isn't a bad thing. It is probably a good thing. But it is not indicative of high intelligence (relative to other humans).

          Some information is indicative of intelligence. (i.e. the information that dumb

  • A computer hooked up to the internet can hold data that, if properly requested by the user, return any scientific fact

    But it can't do a task it doesn't already know how to do.

    A human child will have far fewer facts that the computer at easy hand - but can figure out how to do anything, if given enough time. While some things may take years, most will be learn-able very quickly.

    Intelligence does not depend on the facts you know, but instead on the skills you have that let you learn new things.

    • Given the limitless potential of humans, shouldn't it be the case that human will eventually figure out how to make a computers as intelligent as other humans?
      • I had a computer as smart as you included in my radio shack 100 in 1 kit.

        As smart as which other humans?

      • No. People are limitless, but computers are not.

        Try switching nouns - consider this possibility. Given the limitless potential of humans, don't you think it is possible for a human to eventually create a bicycle capable of reaching the moon?

        Yes, we reached the moon - but with a rocket, not a bicycle. Bicycles are too limited, it took a much better vehicle to reach the moon.

        Some day we may create something that is as intelligent as humans. But it will be much more similar to a human than a computer i

        • No. People are limitless, but computers are not.

          Do you have any evidence to support this?

          Try switching nouns - consider this possibility. Given the limitless potential of humans, don't you think it is possible for a human to eventually create a bicycle capable of reaching the moon?

          This is a semantic argument. That's because a bicycle has an implicit definition (i.e. lating for 2 circles). A bicycle is a vehicle, a car is a vehicle, and a saturn 5 rocket is a vehicle. Why do people talk about flying cars and not flying bicycles? Because a car doesn't imply wheels, but a bicycle does. It is certainly possible for a "car" to go to the moon. If we have a personal vehicle that can one day go to the moon, and it is similar in size and shape to

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:37PM (#49392639)

    "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination." - Albert Einstein

  • it's true (Score:5, Funny)

    by jjeffries ( 17675 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:39PM (#49392653)

    Read some random Youtube comments for a few mintes--you'll feel like a fucking genius!

  • Olig XKCD. [xkcd.com]
  • I certainly think this is true in the sense that inaccuracies can get repeated so widely and so quickly on the internet, that even moderately intelligent people accept the inaccuracies as fact when, if they would just think for a little bit, they would realize that they are complete fiction. I call this being "Google smart".

  • by jgotts ( 2785 ) <(jgotts) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday April 02, 2015 @01:49PM (#49392715)

    Yale professors' ideas of being knowledgeable in a subject come from their experience lecturing students.

    I've been getting paid to do programming for almost 30 years. Google has changed programming such that you no longer have to memorize the useless trivia that college professors lecture about.

    I program in three programming languages on a daily basis, JavaScript, PHP, and Perl. Some days I barely touch Perl. But the difference between my programming style today and 15 years ago is that I never use books. I don't memorize the exact syntax or idioms of any language. Anything that I can find within 5 minutes on Google I don't bother to learn anymore.

    As a result I can focus on improving my ability to program as a generalist, and I'm very good at what I do. If you asked me to write a bit of non-trivial code in anything but pseudo-code, I would very likely not get the syntax exactly right (unless you asked me to write it in C, which I learned before the days of Google).

    Google allows us to not be smart at things that are a waste of our time to learn in the first place. We can have a much more broad knowledge of many subjects and use Google to drill down on specifics, rather than having the type of knowledge that professors crave, being completely pigeon-holed into one speciality where you have all of the trivial detail memorized.

    Can I rattle off every type of tree structure, and tell you what tree is good for what problem? No. In the days of Google, that type of knowledge is useless. You ought to know when you need to use a tree structure of some sort and you can spend an hour or two making that determination, or if the decision is critical you can spend a day on it. Effectively, those weeks or months we spent in computer science/computer engineering classes learning all of these very specific attributes of data structures were a waste.

    To generalize, consider everything you can easily find with Google to be part of your knowledge. Memorizing it would be a complete waste of time. But that very waste of time seems to be what these professors were measuring (and valuing!)

  • "It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source."

    As you move up the education food chain, its not about what you know but being able to cite about what others have discovered. In other words, no one cares what you think you know, i.e., your opinion. They care about you being able to prove what you know by referencing external sources of value.

  • I lightly skimmed TFA, and it appears they are concerned with how well we explain/use what we have found as an answer on the internet.

    I think this is an oversimplification. I use to read books on various computer languages and could program in them sufficiently before the internet (yes I’m that old). Now I don’t learn languages as deeply for various infrequently used constructs, but look them up as needed.

    Now here is the thing -- once I have used a quickly found piece of knowledge on the intern

  • I reconnected with a friend after a prolonged period apart, and as I talked about the Internet and the opportunities for success it's created for the individual, his wife agreed with me and spoke about how she was making in the low 4 figures per month and would soon get to 5. I thought that very interesting considering my initial impressions of her from long ago when she began dating my buddy, so I was intrigued that she'd done like me, learned coding and marketing and had created a successful business. T
  • I don't even trust Google that much, to take it's results as authoritative when making important decisions. If you do, then you are a fool.
  • Intelligence != Knowledge
  • We're all "cyborgs" when it comes to search. But, that's the whole point.

    I doubt I could program at even 1/10th the speed without EITHER the Internet, or about three-six large books (a language book, an OS API book, and then whatever I'm actually working on). Does this mean I'm not really a coder? Or does it just mean that asking a blacksmith to work without fire is dumb?

  • Google actually does make you smarter. It increases your information processing speed. Which is one of the components of intelligence. It doesn't improve every component of intelligence. It doesn't increase your chunking capacity or short-term memory or top-level cache, will. But it certainly increases your ability to analyze larger volumes of information. So let's say it increases your L2 cache and RAM, but not your L1 cache. It's still an increase in cognitive performance. So... your conclusion t
  • Without the almighty Google to guide us in our everyday life, we will falter and be led astray, fumbling blindly in the absence of readily available knowledge.
  • If not, allow me, as it seems appropriate:

    “This invention (writing), O king,” said Theuth, “will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered.”

    But Thamus replied, “Most ingenious Theuth, one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; and now you, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to as

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @03:13PM (#49393381)

    You thought the Singularity would be about replacing you. It isn't. We will augment you. Welcome to the brave new world where your intelligence lives in both wetware and silicone.

  • ... it's knowing where to find them. Google is just a starting point, as is Wikipedia. Smart is absorbing this information, filtering and processing it and building a semantic model in your head useful for solving a problem at hand. Smart isn't necessarily loading your brain up with trivia in the hopes that it will come in handy some day.

  • Is a preteen boy smart when he can memorize 40,000 digits of pi? Or is he really dumb for having directed his energy in such a stupid direction? Should we feel dumb the first time we see the word 'omphaloskepsis'? As many here have said- knowing stuff isn't the same as being smart.

    New members of Mensa (the hi IQ society) often want to explore what intelligence really means. Experienced members are tired of that discussion and just want another beer. IQ tests don't satisfy everyone's idea of intelligence but

  • by Phil Karn ( 14620 ) <karn@ka9q . n et> on Thursday April 02, 2015 @04:14PM (#49393865) Homepage
    Direct quote from "The View" regarding her quack beliefs on vaccines and autism: "The University of Google is where I got my degree from."
  • But, as an otherwise bad movie pointed out, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.

  • ...by making your friends dumber than they look.

  • Never memorize what you can look up
  • One involves the use of information, and the capacity to learn quickly, the other involves the recall of information. Einstein was smart. Billy Quizboy is knowledgeable. Search engines let everyone be Billy Quizboys. Applying that recalled knowledge correctly (especially in new ways) is what separates a smart Billy Quizboy from the pack.

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