The Internet makes us think we’re smarter than we really are

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According to a new study, searching the internet for information gives people a ‘widely inaccurate’ view of their own intelligence. 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 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. With the Internet, the lines become blurry between what you know and what you think you know. 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.”

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