Have you ever had the feeling while reading an online article that it’s all quite obvious and in fact you knew it all along? Well, lots of people have impressions similar to yours. Here’s why.

Check out: The Internet Makes You Think You’re Smarter Than You Are: An Interview with Matthew Fisher



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  • vast – of very great extent or quantity; immense
  • effortless – requiring no physical or mental exertion
  • appendage – a thing that is added or attached to something larger or more important
  • inherent – existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute
  • trade-off – a balance achieved between two desirable but incompatible features; a compromise
  • ploy – a cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one’s own advantage


Think about it

Answer the questions below.

  • Describe the research and the challenge.
  • What is the example with the car mechanic supposed to illustrate?
  • How do transactive memory partners work?
  • How have people reacted to the research findings?
  • What made Matt want to study this?


Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the correct forms of the words in CAPITAL LETTERS.

There’s a lot of research about ________ TRANSACTION memory partners. Take an old married couple recalling their first date. In ________ ISOLATE neither recalls much, but if you put their memories together, they can re-create a richer memory that’s more than the sum of each person’s fragments. Now it looks like a machine can be that transactive memory partner. You plus a search is more than you or the search. It’s just that we think it’s only us.

Plus, searching the internet is almost ________ EFFORT, and it’s almost always ________ ACCESS. You never face your ________ IGNORE when it’s there. Because we’re so deeply plugged into it, we ________ ATTRIBUTE the connection to knowledge to actually having the ________ KNOW ourselves. It becomes an appendage. We like to use the term “cognitive prosthesis.”


Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

Yale doctoral candidate Matthew Fisher and his colleagues Mariel Goddu and Frank Keil asked people a series of questions that seemed answerable but ____ actually difficult. The questions concerned things people assume they know but actually do ____ —such ____ why there are phases of the moon and how glass is made. Some people were allowed to look ____ the answers ____ the internet, while others were not. Then ____ researchers asked a second set of questions ____ unrelated topics. ____ comparison with the other subjects, the people who ____ been allowed to ____ online searches vastly overestimated their ability to answer ____ new questions correctly.


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