U.S. Markets close in 4 hrs 30 mins

Study: Internet Access Makes You Think You’re Smarter Than You Really Are

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech

Worst Internet ever. (Via The New Daily)

Finally, there’s scientific research to prove that everyone on the Internet is absolutely full of it.

A new psychological study from Yale University found that people who have access to an online search engine when researching a topic are overly confident in their knowledge of the world, as compared with people who use other, nondigital tools.

The experiment, which was first reported by the Telegraph, tested more than 1,000 students. It included nine separate exercises. In each, researchers compared the self-perceived intelligence of people who used the Internet to research a topic with that of people who used more analog methods. 

The results showed that searching for explanations on the Internet made people think they knew much more than they actually did — even about stuff they hadn’t researched.

“In many ways, our minds treat the Internet as a transactive memory partner, broadening the scope of knowledge to which we have access,” the study, published this week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, concluded. “The results of these experiments suggest that searching the Internet may cause a systematic failure to recognize the extent to which we rely on outsourced knowledge.”

In one test, researchers asked the question “How does a zip work?” The group with Internet access was given a website link, and the control group got a print-out with the same information.

Later the two groups were quizzed on an unrelated question: Why are cloudy nights warmer? Neither of them had researched the topic, but the group with Internet access believed they knew more than the analog group, despite never looking up the question online.

According to the study’s lead researcher, Matthew Fisher, revelations about Internet surfers’ perceived intelligence should be a warning to future generations when it comes to making important, informed decisions.

“With the Internet, the lines become blurry between what you know and what you think you know,” Fisher, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in psychology at Yale, told the Telegraph. “In cases where decisions have big consequences, it could be important for people to distinguish their own knowledge and not assume they know something when they actually don’t.”

To sum it up: No, Donna, just because you can Google “Italian desserts” doesn’t mean you automatically know how to make tiramisu. And by the way, that tiramisu you made was disgusting.

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her here.