Internet Makes People Think They’re Smarter

In the age of Internet and all the information being available at our fingertips, people tend to believe they are smarter than they actually are. Or at least according to a recent study called “Searching for Explanations: How the Internet Inflates Estimates of Internal Knowledge” featured online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

In the study, researchers from Yale University conducted nine experiments and showed that when people have access to search engines, they tend to think they know more than they do and see themselves to be better at explaining information than they really are. It seems that people oftentimes confuse their ability to look up information on Google for the ability to actually come up with the information or a solution to a problem.

According to the study, “cognitive tools, computational instruments, and external information sources can supplement the functioning of the mind.” In order to prove this, researchers asked 152 people to answer a simple question of “How does a zipper work?” Only one of the two groups was able to search for answers online.

Afterwards, the researchers asked both groups an unrelated question and the groups had to rate their confidence in answering the question correctly. Those who had previously had access to the internet rated themselves as being able to come up with better answers. In the following experiments, the researchers encountered this phenomenon again and again, which showed that people indeed confuse their knowledge with their ability to look up information online.

This corresponds with a phenomenon known in the fields of psychology and sociology – when people learn new information, they have a feeling that they “knew it all along.” When people are able to Google the information, they acquire the same feeling of “knew it all along”, which can sometimes prove dangerous.


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