Using a search engine might make people think they can explain things they probably know very little about.
According to The Telegraph, a study conducted at Yale University found that people who consistently rely on the Internet for information are unrealistically confident when it comes to their general intelligence.
Lead researcher and doctoral candidate Matthew Fisher says,
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.
Over 1,000 students participated in a series of experiments where they were separated into two groups.
The study began by asking one group, the Internet group, to use search engines to find answers to four questions such as "how does a zipper work?".
The other group, the control group, was given a printout of a website the Internet group used to find the answer.
The two groups were then asked to rate their abilities to answer questions they had not previously researched like "why are cloudy nights warmer?".
A higher level of knowledge was boasted from the Internet group, Daily Mail reports.
The Internet group also thought they were more knowledgeable about complex topics they searched for but could not find clear answers to on the web.
"Why is ancient Kushite history more peaceful than Greek history?" was among these questions.
Yale psychology professor Frank Keil concluded that simply "being in search mode," or the act of using a search engine, makes a person believe he or she is smart even if the search did not help.
Another experiment asked the Internet group to choose between a series of brain images they thought most accurately represented their neurological activity.
These students believed their brains were working harder than the control group and selected the images showing a high amount of activity.
Accurate personal knowledge is difficult to achieve, and the Internet may be making that task even harder.
He suggested that this may be because searching the Internet doesn't require as much focus as speaking to an expert on a subject or reading a book.
Extensive use of search engines could therefore lead to incorrect decisions on important issues like elections, the team said.
This research was originally published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.