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Does Google make us lose sight of where our own knowledge ends and where Internet knowledge begins? This question is addressed in a new to study by Adrian Ward of the University of Texas at the McCombs School of Business in Austin. His recent article, “People Mistake the Internet’s Knowledge for Their Own,” was published on October 26, 2021 in the peer-reviewed journal. PNAS.
Ward found that research on Google can blur the lines between what people actually know and what they think they know. This three-pronged study found that when people use search engines, they often confuse Google’s knowledge with their own and become overconfident to know more than they would know without access to. Internet. “When information is at hand, we may mistakenly believe that it is coming from inside our head,” he writes.
Google can make us think we know more when we know less
Ward adds, “Using Google to answer general knowledge questions artificially inflates people’s confidence in their own ability to remember and process information and leads to falsely optimistic predictions about what they will know without the Internet. When they think with Google, people think they are smarter and have better memories than others. “
Based on the results of his research, Ward speculates that it might be wise for educators and policy makers to reconsider what it means to be educated and for schools to put less emphasis on having students memorize facts that can easily be searched on Google. “Maybe we can use our limited cognitive resources in a more effective and efficient way,” he said.
Smartphones allow us to hold endless amounts of knowledge in the palms of our hands. For the record, I agree with Ward’s theory that having Google and other search engines at your fingertips could make memorizing knowledge obsolete in the burgeoning digital age. That said, he also warns that “in a world where online research is often faster than accessing our memory, ironically we can know less but think we know more.”
A humble Google search matches my Alma Mater’s motto: “Knowing is not enough”
Unsatisfactory saw (knowing is not enough) is the motto of my alma mater, Hampshire College, one of the few accredited academic institutions without tests or grades. Hampshire students design their own curriculum and the school’s pedagogy does not promote rote memorization or cramming for exams.
I attended university from 1984 to 1988, long before we had the Internet or search engines at our fingertips. But the advent of knowledge-expanding tools like Google fits with my educational mindset, which has always been more focused on feeding fluid intelligence and connecting dots between seemingly unrelated ideas than on the search for a GPA 4.0. (See “Thriving in life doesn’t require a good A’s”)
One of the unintended benefits of going to a school that emphasizes an ongoing curiosity over memorizing crystallized knowledge is that I am wired to openly acknowledge my lack of encyclopedic knowledge. Some people brag about their wisdom; as a Hampshire College alum i humiliate Google and don’t pretend to know more than i know.
In some ways, learning that memorizing a lot of facts doesn’t necessarily make you smart is an antidote to the Dunning-Kruger effect. When there is no shame in not knowing something, there is no need to exaggerate what you think you know after searching for answers online. This unpretentious worldview is underlined by the fundamental belief that “knowledge is not enough”.
What is the Dunning-Kruger effect? And how to shorten it
In their 1999 paper, “Unqualified and Unconscious: How Difficulties Recognizing Your Own Incompetence Lead to Exaggerated Self-Ratings,” David Dunning and Justin Kruger first presented what we now call the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
The gist of this cognitive bias theory is that uninformed people can become overconfident in their brain capacity or IQ because they don’t know enough to know what they don’t know. The double whammy of incompetence combined with thinking you’re smarter than you are can lead to poor decision-making and often prevent someone experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect from realizing of its shortcomings.
Like William Ian Miller Explain in Humiliation, “It is one of the essential characteristics of such incompetence that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. To have such knowledge would already amount to remedying a good part of the crime.
Just knowing that Google search can lead to overconfidence in one’s own perceived knowledge could counterbalance Google’s potential to perpetuate the Dunning-Kruger effect. Realizing that people who use search engines tend to confuse internet knowledge with their own is the first step towards realizing that each of us probably knows less than what we think we know after each time. search on google.
Now that you have Ward’s latest factual research (2021) in your noggin, instead of being overconfident the next time you google something, it’s probably wiser to repeat after every internet search: “J ‘know less than I think. “And to remind you that not knowing is OK because “knowing is not enough”.