It turns out that most of us are not as smart as we think we are. In fact, those who use the Internet regularly often believe themselves as having more intelligence than others, but that's simply not the case.
According to a new study done by psychologists at Yale University, the Internet makes us think we're smarter than we really are.
The Internet certainly makes us more knowledgeable, especially now that we have information constantly at our fingertips and often carry that knowledge with us via our smartphones and tablets. However, that doesn't really mean we're smarter than people who don't know how to Google.
Yale researchers conducted a total of nine experiments, all different, on over 1,000 people. They found with each experiment that those people who searched the Internet for answers to questions often thought they were more intelligent than people who received information in other ways.
One of the Yale experiments asked volunteers how a zipper works. Researchers told one group to search for the answer online. The other group, the control group, stayed offline, but researchers gave them the same answer that they would have found online. Then, researchers asked the volunteers about how well they understood what they'd learned: those who used the Internet believed they had more knowledge about zippers than those who didn't. However, in reality, both groups had the same information and knowledge about how zippers worked.
This even carried on to more complex questions given by researchers. Even when those searching the Internet couldn't find full answers on the Internet, they still believed themselves the more knowledgeable of the two groups.
"The cognitive effects of 'being in search mode' on the Internet may be so powerful that people still feel smarter even when their online searches reveal nothing," says Yale University's Frank Keil, the Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Psychology and Linguistics and senior author of the paper.
Inspiration for the experiment came after Keil lost access to the Internet during a hurricane. He has also studied younger generations who grew up with having Google access 24/7.
"The cell phone is almost like the appendage of their brain," he says. "They don't even realize it's not real until they become unplugged."
So, the next time you find the answer to something on Google, accept that new knowledge but realize that it doesn't make you any smarter than you already are.
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo | Flickr