Is Google Making Us Smarter?
It depends on how you use the web, and how you define “smarter.”
The internet was abuzz this summer over Nicholas Carr‘s eloquent argument in The Atlantic that the internet is eroding our ability to read long and complex texts (if you agree, but can’t make it through to the end of his 4,200-word essay, chalk it up to confirmation bias).
Now, a new study finds that skilled, thoughtful web surfing can actually build cognitive skills and may delay the onset of dementia in older users.
The findings of the study, by U.C.L.A. memory specialist Gary Small, do not necessarily refute Carr’s argument.
Small’s team found that experienced web users experience increased stimulation in the regions of their brains that handle complex reasoning and decision making. The activity was more widespread than when the same subjects were reading a book, or when inexperienced web users surfed the internet.
In other words, being able to tease out useful information from all the chaff on the internet can be as intellectually demanding a task as completing a crossword puzzle.
But is puzzle solving the same kind of “smartness” as the “smartness” that comes from reading a book?