Paul Sutton asks whether search engines can change the way your mind works
Paul Sutton is head of social communications at BOTTLE PR and tweets @ThePaulSutton
Hidden among all the News of the World scandal in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday was an article which claimed that using Internet search engines can harm your memory. A psychologist from Columbia University in New York has carried out a study which found that, due to the availability of information on the web, we tend to easily forget things that we know we can find again. We're rewiring our brains to remember where we can retrieve information online, rather than remembering the information itself.
With the #NoSearch project in mind, this made fascinating reading for me and seems to support some of my own key learnings. As the experiment has progressed I've, rather surprisingly, found myself asking fewer questions of my friends and networks when I fully expected to be asking more. In a sense, not using search engines has become easier as time has gone on. And it wasn't until I read the article in the Telegraph that it dawned on me why. It's because my recollection of information such as statistics and opinions has improved.
I, like most people, have become very accustomed to skim reading. For example, I currently receive anywhere between 50 and 100 blog posts in my RSS reader on any given day, of which I skim read maybe 10 per cent. Only if something grabs my attention do I read it fully. But over the last few weeks, if I find something interesting or useful I tend to recall it better; it's as if I've adjusted my habits and way of thinking to cope with the fact that I can't simply Google something if I forget it.
Psychologists believe that the Internet has become part of our 'transactive memory', information that we don't recall but know where to retrieve if we need it. Whether I'm now making more effort to remember information or whether I can change the way my brain works in just seven weeks I have no idea. But if this is the case, the implications for marketers are very clear - in order for your messages to be recalled, they have to be bold, clear and unforgettable!