googleIn our digital age, you may find yourself wondering: where the hell is my memory? We use search engines for just about everything, so much so that if you find yourself at Flips on a Wednesday night, you can be automatically disqualified from Quizzo if your phone is even out. Whenever we can’t remember the smallest detail, Google is there to help. So is Google destroying our memories?

It turns out it’s a lot weirder than that. In his book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, Clive Thompson explores this question through psychology and comes to a strange conclusion: we are now treating Google like we used to treat our friends, family, and significant others.

This sounds absolutely ridiculous, but Thompson’s claim actually makes complete sense:

Think about the way you interact with people when you’re telling a story. You can never quite remember all of the details, right? Maybe your roommate was there when the story happened…and you cue them – “Hey, who was that guy with the thing at that place?” Chances are, your roommate will know the answer.

Our brains aren’t meant to work alone. In our relationships, our brains are trained to remember only some of the details of a situation, while your partner’s is trained to remember the other details. That’s why at home, your mom might remember all of the relative’s birthdays, but your dad remembers where you keep the spare keys for the cars. Remembering everything takes teamwork!

And that’s where technology comes in. We don’t remember certain details and facts because we don’t have to: we know that Google is acting as our “partner” in situations like this. But there’s a plus: Google can give you way more information than you needed when you entered your query. Great for learning, terrible when you shouldn’t be procrastinating.

So don’t worry if you feel like your memory’s on the fritz and you have to Google everything – the search engine is just being a friend!

You can read an excerpt of Thompson’s book here – his research on this subject is awesome!

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