Yale study: Internet makes folks feel smarter than they are

7 Jun

Sarah D. Sparks wrote good synopsis of the report, Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century in the Education Week article, Study: ’21st-Century Learning’ Demands Mix of Abilities:

The committee found these skills generally fall into three categories:

  • Cognitive skills, such as critical thinking and analytic reasoning;
  • Interpersonal skills, such as teamwork and complex communication; and
  • Intrapersonal skills, such as resiliency and conscientiousness (the latter of which has also been strongly associated with good career earnings and healthy lifestyles).

Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who was not part of the report committee, said developing common definitions of 21st-century skills is critical to current education policy discussions, such as around Common Core State Standards.

“Unless we want to have just a lot of hand-waving on 21st-century skills,” Ms. Darling-Hammond said, “we need to get focused and purposeful on how to learn to teach and measure these skills, both in terms of research investments and in terms of the policies and practice that would allow us to develop and measure these skills.”

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/study_deeper_learning_needs_st_1.html

The National Research Council published the report, Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century  Technology does not replace the need for critical thinking skills.

Moi wrote in In Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person:

The key is developing the idea that facts should be used to support an opinion.

The Critical Thinking Community has several great articles about critical thinking at their site. In the section, Defining Critical Thinking:

A Definition
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.

The Result

A well cultivated critical thinker:

  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and
    precisely;
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to
    interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought,
    recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008). http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 https://drwilda.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/

Cruising the Internet is not critical thinking.

Poncie Rutsch of NPR reported in Searching Online May Make You Think You’re Smarter Than You Are:

Using the Internet is an easy way to feel omniscient. Enter a search term and the answers appear before your eyes.

But at any moment you’re also just a few taps away from becoming an insufferable know-it-all. Searching for answers online gives people an inflated sense of their own knowledge, according to a study. It makes people think they know more than they actually do.

“We think the information is leaking into our head, but really the information is stored somewhere else entirely,” Matthew Fisher, a doctoral student in cognitive psychology at Yale University, tells Shots. Fisher surveyed hundreds of people to get a sense of how searching the Internet affected how they rate their knowledge. His study was published Tuesday in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General…. http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/xge/

The results kept coming back the same: searching online led to knowledge inflation.

There are practical consequences to this little exercise. If we can’t accurately judge what we know, then who’s to say whether any of the decisions we make are well-informed?

“People are unlikely to be able to explain their own shortcomings,” says Fisher. “People aren’t aware of the quality of explanation or the quality of arguments they can produce, and they don’t realize it until they encounter the gaps.”

The more we rely on the Internet, Fisher says, the harder it will be to draw a line between where our knowledge ends and the web begins. And unlike poring through books or debating peers, asking the Internet is unique because it’s so effortless….http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/04/02/396810355/searching-online-may-make-you-think-youre-smarter-than-you-are

Here is the press release:

Internet Searches Create Illusion of Personal Knowledge, Research Finds

Inflated sense of personal knowledge may have negative effects, study concludes

Read the journal article

WASHINGTON — Searching the Internet for information may make people feel smarter than they actually are, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

“The Internet is such a powerful environment, where you can enter any question, and you basically have access to the world’s knowledge at your fingertips,” said lead researcher Matthew Fisher, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in psychology at Yale University. “It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source. When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the Internet.”

In a series of experiments, participants who searched for information on the Internet believed they were more knowledgeable than a control group about topics unrelated to the online searches. In a result that surprised the researchers, participants had an inflated sense of their own knowledge after searching the Internet even when they couldn’t find the information they were looking for. After conducting Internet searches, participants also believed their brains were more active than the control group did. The research was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General®.

For nine experiments, a range of 152 to 302 participants were recruited online, with different participants taking part in each experiment. In one experiment, the Internet group used online searches to research four questions (e.g., “How does a zipper work?”) and provided a website link with the best answer. The control group was given the exact text from the most common website used by the Internet group to answer the questions. Both groups then rated their ability to answer other questions (e.g., “Why are cloudy nights warmer?”) on topics unrelated to the Internet searches, although they didn’t have to answer those questions. The Internet group members consistently rated themselves as more knowledgeable than the control group about those unrelated topics.

The Internet group reported an inflated sense of personal knowledge after Internet searches even when its members could not find complete answers to very difficult questions (e.g., “Why is ancient Kushite history more peaceful than Greek history?”) or when they found no answers at all because of Google filters that were used. 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, said study co-author Frank Keil, PhD, a psychology professor at Yale.

In another experiment, participants who did online searches thought their brains would be more active than the control group, and they chose magnetic resonance images of a brain with more active areas highlighted as representative of their own brains. This result suggests that the participants searching the Internet believed they had more knowledge in their heads, rather than simply thinking they knew more because they had access to the Internet, Fisher said.

The use of Internet searches, not just access to the Internet, appeared to inflate participants’ sense of personal knowledge. When the Internet group members were given a particular website link to answer questions, they didn’t report higher levels of personal knowledge on the unrelated topics than the control group.

People must be actively engaged in research when they read a book or talk to an expert rather than searching the Internet, Fisher said. “If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s very apparent to you that you don’t know, and it takes time and effort to find the answer,” he said. “With the Internet, the lines become blurry between what you know and what you think you know.”

The growing use of smartphones may exacerbate this problem because an Internet search is always within reach, Keil said, and the effects may be more pronounced when children who are immersed in the Internet from an early age grow up to be adults.

An inflated sense of personal knowledge also could be dangerous in the political realm or other areas involving high-stakes decisions, Fisher said.

“In cases where decisions have big consequences, it could be important for people to distinguish their own knowledge and not assume they know something when they actually don’t,” he said. “The Internet is an enormous benefit in countless ways, but there may be some tradeoffs that aren’t immediately obvious and this may be one of them. Accurate personal knowledge is difficult to achieve, and the Internet may be making that task even harder.”

Article: “Searching for Explanations: How the Internet Inflates Estimates of Internal Knowledge;” Matthew Fisher, MA, Mariel K. Goddu, BA, and Frank C. Keil, PhD; Yale University; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General; online March 31, 2015.

Matthew Fisher can be contacted by email or by phone at (260) 519-1736.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

See, Online illusion: Unplugged, we really aren’t that smart  http://news.yale.edu/2015/03/31/online-illusion-unplugged-we-really-aren-t-smart

Technology can be a useful tool and education aid, BUT it is not a cheap way to move the masses through the education system without the guidance and mentoring that a quality human and humane teacher can provide.

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