Daniel Wegner can be counted on to be always coming up with interesting stuff. Here he does a series of experiments showing how google is taking a load off our explicit memory storage habits (of the sort that occurred in the transition from the oral tradition to writing). As most of us know from our daily experience, google is replacing books and encyclopedias as our main group or transactive memory, and we become increasingly able to remember where information is stored better than remembering the information itself:
The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines, has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can “Google” the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.