Google and Transactive Memory

The American Dialect Society has picked “Google” as the word of the decade (2000-2009). It is worth pondering the significance of this selection. “I think my life has been more affected by ‘Google’ than ‘9/11’” said one college student1. At first, this assertion might seem a bit extreme, but if you were not personally affected 9/11, it just might be true. Google has achieved such dominance in the market that it has become a synonym for internet search. For most of us, it has become a part of our daily lives. We take it for granted and perhaps fail to appreciate its larger significance.

Google is a tool that facilitates the accessing and searching of transactive memory that is located in cyberspace. It is helpful to distinguish three classes of transactive memory on the internet. Accessible transactive memory does not require Google. This is information that you cannot recall from your personal memory, but you do remember how to access via the internet. Google, however, is useful for available transactive memory. This is information that you know is on the internet. You might well have visited this site before, but it is not bookmarked and you do not know how to find it. Then it’s Google to the rescue. Potential transactive memory is truly vast. That is all the information available on the internet, which is a substantial percentage of all human knowledge. Potential transactive memory presents the enormous opportunity for cognitive growth. Google, along with other sites such as, are key tools for accessing potential transactive memory and converting portions of it to available transactive memory, accessible transactive memory, or your own personal biological memory depending on how well you need to know this information.

In this light, Google is a key tool for an healthy memory and cognitive growth. As we age there is an increasing tendency to rely upon what we know and not to pursue new knowledge. We should pursue new knowledge as long as we live.

 1Zak., D. (2010). American Dialect Society picks ‘tweet,’ ‘Google’ as top words for 2009, decade. The Washington Post, January 9,2010;C01. Also search tags for “Transactive Memory” on

© Douglas Griffith and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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