Search Engines are Changing the way we Use our Brains (And We Probably Like It)
Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Everything we do and everything we interact with changes as we use it and, in the process, changes us. When almost half the planet’s population starts the day with a search engine you know that search engines are working on us, just as we use them.
The latest study on the subject suggests that a ‘lazy’ factor creeps in, in our use of information. As we get surrounded by more and more information we get better at remembering how to access it and worse at actually remembering it.
The study suggests that because we rely on search engines so much we empty our minds of trivia such as pop culture questions, film plots and actors’ names and tunes we might otherwise have remembered, all of which now are just a click away on our laptops, desktops or smartphones.
This, however, may not necessarily be bad thing. By emptying itself of trivia the brain may be able to better concentrate on analysis (rather than processing details) and allow us to become ‘smarter’ by seeing the bigger picture.
The effect search engines have on users is not new, though the study lent scientific validity to what has long been suspected. Google’s introduction of Google Instant, for example, which suggests search terms as you type has affected both search engine optimisation (SEO) and the way users look for websites. Long before that Google’s introduction of automatic spell correction caused a marked dip in spelling accuracy as we have come to rely on the search engine to make sense of our anagrams and misspellings.
This should come as no surprise. The best technologies embed themselves, seamlessly, in our lives and become an adjunct to the way we live. Without Google search, for instance, we would be lost for many of the things we need to do and I know from experience fellow journalists would be taking twice as long to write up their stories.Continued on the next page