Google Might Be Giving You An Overinflated Ego

Sometimes (mostly on Sunday nights when I am a little drunk and full of useless thoughts), I marvel at just how amazing it is to be able look up anything we don’t know on the internet in the span of a few seconds. I think about how I’d probably have been a totally different person if I’d grown up just a few years earlier. Would I have made the choice to move away from my hometown if I hadn’t had the comfort of Google easing me through what to expect in my new home and offering me the kind of insight that decades ago I’d have needed to traveled the world, gain twenty more years of experience, and spend hella time at the library to find out? I mean, the internet can’t quite provide wisdom, but it sure can provide a lot of information that generations before us had to go through much more trouble to find out. Whether that makes millennials better off or just a lot more naive in the long haul (because remember, all that knowledge is coming in incomplete internet-sized soundbites without any accompanying experience) is still up for debate, but according to some researchers, it does make everyone a tad too overconfident.

We already know that we are more likely to forget information that’s easy to Google (so, all information?), a phenomenon that’s been coined “The Google Effect.” A recent study by Yale University, however, has found that Google might also have another damaging effect: overconfidence. In the study, researchers asked a group of Amazon Mechanical Turk employees to find solutions to questions (about varying topics like weather, science, and health treatments) on the internet, and asked another group to answer the questions without any help from Google. The participants who used the internet were more likely to overestimate their knowledge on topics they didn’t know all too much about.

Does this mean I can blame Google for mansplaining? I guess not, since that phenomenon existed long before the internet, but it definitely makes me worry about other situations in which overconfidence can be dangerous or even just an inconvenience. What about in stressful work situations? What about when trying to make a repair in your home? What about when your best friend looks up your ailment on WebMD and decides to try to play faux medical professional with you and give you terrifying over-the-top diagnoses? Maybe it’s time to take a break from the laptop.


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