This week’s Cognitive Bias is a fairly easy one to grasp. The Google Effect suggests that we forget information that we can easily access using the internet. Well….YEAH. It has some tendrils to some of the memory posts I’ve been releasing weekly, but this one really does deserve our attention.
It makes perfect sense. Why would we commit something to memory when we know we have easy access to that information pretty much any time we want it. Let me give you a really easy example for this:
I know that there are there are 4 quarts in a gallon. I know this because I grew up without the internet, and if I didn’t remember this fact, I would literally have to find a cookbook or an encyclopedia and turn to the index to figure this out. And it was easy enough to remember and I used this conversion often enough that it sticks in my brain. How many pints in a quart? Ok, I didn’t use that one as much. How many cups in a pint? I don’t know. Is that even a thing?
I primarily use Alexa in my house to set timers while I’m cooking, to tell me the conversions I need, and often to tell me the required internal temperature of chicken. There is no reason for me to memorize any of this information, because I can literally just ask the empty room a question, and the answer is told to me. I don’t have to type. I don’t have to find a book. I don’t have to wash my hands. I just say it. And the answer is there. How wild is that?
So, why would I remember anything that I have access to? Well, I probably wouldn’t. BUT, unfortunately, traditional education practices have not yet embraced the ubiquitous nature of information. Don’t test me on dates. I can look those up. Don’t make me memorize a step by step process if it’s not going to be happening while there’s an emergency going on. I’ll look it up as I need it. What I should actually spend time working on and learning is how to do the most efficient searches to get the information I need, and how to interpret and apply that information. Because that’s the naturalistic approach to how I find information I need when I need it.
I would much rather focus on the performance aspect of applying information properly and in the appropriate context than worrying about rote memorization or when a policy was signed into legislature. We debate this a lot at my day job. I’m a believer, give me the google and a problem and I will figure it out so long as I can interpret my findings. If I can’t do that, well then, I’m in trouble.