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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