ease vs. effort

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Google is making us dumber, reports Ian Leslie at Salon, noting that "In a remarkably short period of time, we have become habituated to an endless supply of easy answers. You might even say dependent:"

One day, the gap between question and answer will disappear. I believe we should strive to keep it open. That gap is where our curiosity lives. We undervalue it at our peril.

The piece notes the importance of effort:

It's hardly surprising that we love the ease and fluency of the modern web: our brains are designed to avoid anything that seems like hard work. The psychologists Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor coined the term "cognitive miser" to describe the stinginess with which the brain allocates limited attention, and its in-built propensity to seek mental short-cuts. The easier it is for us to acquire information, however, the less likely it is to stick. Difficulty and frustration -- the very friction that Google aims to eliminate -- ensure that our brain integrates new information more securely. Robert Bjork, of the University of California, uses the phrase "desirable difficulties" to describe the counterintuitive notion that we learn better when the learning is hard. Bjork recommends, for instance, spacing teaching sessions further apart so that students have to make more effort to recall what they learned last time.

The minimal exertion involved in typing a search string into Google and clicking "I'm Feeling Lucky" offers far fewer memory events to trigger any sort of recall later--no wonder the piece observes that "the idea we should outsource our memories to the web [is] a short-cut to stupidity:"

The less we know, the worse we are at processing new information, and the slower we are to arrive at pertinent inquiry. You're unlikely to ask a truly penetrating question about the presidency of Richard Nixon if you have just had to look up who he is.

Ian Leslie's book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It might well be worth a look.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on October 14, 2014 12:02 PM.

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