Online search engines change the way we remember

January 17, 2012 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

Internet search engines such as Google and Bing may be shifting the way your teen remembers information.

According to research by Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow published in Science, people are less likely to remember information when they are aware they can find it via online search engines.

Says Sparrow, “Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.”

But being able to remember and recall facts in history class or vocabulary words in a foreign language is an important part of your child’s high school education. His learning style is a big piece of the study puzzle. But how else can you help him improve his techniques?

  • Start with the big picture. It’s often easier for your teens to remember the little things if they start with more general ideas, then pare it down to the specifics. Use the course outline most teachers hand out at the beginning of the year. Help your teen get a broad overview of subject matter to be covered.
  • Make the connection. We tend to remember things that matter to us (which is why your son can rattle off statistics about the New York Giants or tell you all about the species of wildlife he’s discovered in your backyard). Teach your teen to make a link between the subject he’s studying and the ideas, people or goals that matter to him.
  • Don’t just sit there – get active. Some teens remember things more easily when their whole body is engaged in studying. Instead of sitting in a chair memorizing physics facts, have your teen say them out loud. Encourage him to walk around or write them on a big piece of paper. Help him make up a song or rap for the Periodic Table of Elements, and he’ll be singing all the way to his chemistry test.


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