In the U.S. House of Representatives, how many representatives are there from each state? When presented with this question, are you thinking about each state and its population, or are you thinking about searching for the answer on Google, Wikipedia, or some other search engine? I know I would immediately open my Internet browser and go for Wikipedia.
With technological advancements, we have more access to information than ever before. Our access to immeasurable knowledge is also portable through our phones, laptops, tablets, etc. Does this much access to external information change the way we memorize things? After all, why bother memorizing a bunch of facts when we can retrieve what we need within minutes on our computers?
Psychologists Betsy Sparrow, Jenny Liu, and Daniel Wegner conducted four experiments to see how technology is affecting our memory. Their work appears in Science Express. Based on their experiments, the authors concluded that people have gotten used to having information readily available. We seem to be better at memorizing how we can retrieve information than the information itself. In addition, we tend to memorize things less when we think we will have access to that information later.
Maybe we're bombarded with so much information from all directions that we have to free up some space by actually using technology to help us. Memorizing things in the old-fashioned way isn't exactly practical anymore, as our lives are more complicated (technology is partly to blame). It might not be a bad thing that we've learned to use the Internet as an external memory source.