Google Search Can Make You Smarter, Study Suggests

Dennis Faas's picture

It's one of the most important and yet difficult questions of our time: does the Google Internet search contribute to our understanding of the world, or does its frantic quest for quick and easy answers make us less likely to seek out better, more in-depth responses to our questions? In short, does the Internet make us dumb, or not?

According to a recent study, the answer appears to be 'no'.

Internet Search: Skimming Versus Reading

The study's roots reach back to summer 2009, when in an article for the publication Atlantic Monthly analyst Nicholas Carr asked himself the very same question.

"I'm not thinking the way I used to," he noted in the piece. Carr found he was skimming the articles and stories he found online, rather than taking the time to read everything with time and patience. This new type of reading, he felt, may have lacked the intellectual vibrations that come with deeper reading.

He worried it meant the web was chipping away at his ability to truly comprehend concepts and to have the patience for words.

Soon after, other writers began to challenge Carr's position. They contended that access to information can only be construed as a good thing.

76% of Respondents Like Google as a Learning Tool

In response to the debate, the Pew Internet & American Life Project interviewed 895 technology stakeholders and analysts. It asked respondents about their expectations for social, political, and economic change in the next decade, but also asked them how they felt Google would impact human intelligence -- would it makes us smarter, or not?

The answer? 76 per cent, over three-quarters of the respondents, answered that they believed Google will not make us dumber. (Source:

Google Allows for More Creative Problem Solving

According to Paul Jones of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the ability to peruse information instantaneously allows us to be more interactive with the world around us. "Google allows us to be more creative in approaching problems and more integrative in our thinking. We spend less time trying to recall and more time generating solutions," Jones said.

Responses to concerns about what Google and the web might do to our reading and writing abilities were slightly less positive. 65 per cent felt Google would enhance humans' reading ability, while 32 per cent wondered if the ability to have information now -- and more important, to have it in video form -- might actually detract from our understanding of the written word.

However, the toughest question of all may have been along these lines: will online anonymity be possible in ten years time? Just 55 per cent believed so, while another 41 per cent thought it would be "sharply curtailed." (Source:

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