Our Internet connection is shaping our way of thinking: a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Waterloo and published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition suggests that people are reluctant to speak of their knowledge and depend less on it when they have Internet access.
The team of researchers led by Professor Evan F. Risko, surveyed 100 participants, to test their willingness to reply to questions when they have access to the Internet and when they don’t.
The volunteers were asked general-knowledge questions such as naming the capitals of countries. They had Internet access for half of the study, whereby they could search for answers when they indicated they did not have the knowledge thereof. In the other part of the study, they had to respond to the questions without having Internet access.
The findings show that those having access to the Internet were 5 % more likely to say they did not have knowledge of the answer; decision-making relating to whether one knows or does not know might be influenced by one’s access to the Internet. Many of them also reported that they felt less knowledgeable as opposed to those who had no Internet access.
Living in a world where information is readily available – just a ‘click’ or ‘scroll’ away – people appear to be less dependent on their own knowledge, as explains Professor Risko.
The authors suggest that it might have become less acceptable to claim having knowledge but incorrect. They also say people might want to confirm their answer or quench their curiosity by looking up the answers – a process that might be considered to be more rewarding.
Risko and his team hope that their paper will add to the body of research investigating how our thinking and behaviour are affected by easy access to huge amounts of information.
Their next step now is to analyse the reasons causing the reduced willingness to reply to questions because of Internet access.