In nine different experiments with more than 1,000 participants, psychologists found that if subjects received information through internet searches, they rated their knowledge base as much greater than those who obtained the information through other methods.

"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 from 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," he added.

When later asked how well they understood completely unrelated domains of knowledge, those who searched the internet rated their knowledge substantially greater than those who were only provided text.

"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 senior author professor Frank Keil.



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