General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

Is it worth it to spend time attempting to recall something mentally, if you can use google or some other reference to quickly get the information you need?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10724points) September 1st, 2016 from iPhone

I’m currently trying to remember the name of a certain pasta. (I just remembered, fusili! lol) It took me at least three minutes to remember it without aid. Should I simply have googled spiral pasta, or gone through with the mental exercise of racking my brain for the word?

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16 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Haha, well, I think we should always go for the total recall of brain power over the lazy mans compulsion to Google, but…if you can’t recall then Googling is a great resource. I have a memory like a steel trap, if only my ass was in as good of shape as my brain. lol

zenvelo's avatar

I’ll agree with @Coloma that for something like looking up “fusili” it’s best to exercise the brain a little. Save a bit from the data plan on your smart phone, and keep from sitting down to a computer.

You have to already know that you are trying to get the Italian word for “spiral pasta”. But some brands call that ‘rotini”.

I view Google as more of an alternative to how I would have looked things up before 2004 – grab the dictionary or an encyclopedia.

“Fusili” always makes me think of Kramer.

Jeruba's avatar

I definitely think it’s worth the effort to try to keep those brain cells active and the recall mechanisms functional. I see those as a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. Somewhere at the back of my mind is the idea that down the road I may be in a place and condition where I won’t have the ability or resources to do those searches; all I’ll have is what’s left in my mind. And I’ll want to be able to access it.

Sometimes I’m a stubborn holdout for hours or even days before I give in and look something up online. I’m referring to things I ought to remember and not new information.

And I don’t like people Googling on their phones or tablets at the dinnertable, no matter what the subject or the question.

But…when it’s a word I need and not a name or a fact, when I’m in the middle of writing something and grind to a complete halt because the right word is right there and I just can’t get at it (although I can usually say what letter it begins with, how many syllables it has, and what color it is), I tend to give in very quickly. I open an online thesaurus or just go ask my husband. He and I have both been losing words for decades—it started for me in my early forties—but usually not the same ones.

Memory and identity are so closely linked that I think if I forget too much I will lose myself. So the exercise is important. I drill by recalling the names and room numbers of my junior high school teachers, or my neighbors in my childhood neighborhood, or the states of the U.S., or the seven dwarves of Disney’s film. And I try to learn new things all the time. The life of the mind is crucially important to me.

CWOTUS's avatar

As it applies to @Jeruba‘s response, I have a “word finder” book (hardcover and paper) – whose title ironically escapes my memory right now – that is more than a thesaurus and less than a dictionary.

It’s a book that, like a thesaurus, gives synonyms (and antonyms and homonyms, too), but also categorizes words. So, for example, if I were to look up the word “squad” there, I might find references to military personnel groupings (regiment, brigade, platoon, and squadron, of course, etc.) as well as sports teams, business groupings and other categories for the word “squad”, and appropriate terms for the various contexts of the word.

So when I “give up” to go to that book I can go on whole daisy chains of word lookups as word leads on to word, and so on. I only avoid going to that book because I know that I’ll be wandering around in it for hours by choice after I start.

But in general I also agree with @Jeruba on the idea of “get it back; I know that it’s in there”. However, on a word such as the example given, though I recognize “fusili” and I know that I’ve seen it before, it’s not part of my normal lexicon, so I would not have even thought to remember it. A nautical or construction term… yeah, that I might beat myself up for not calling to mind without external aid.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, getting a quick answer does relieve your brain of that headache it gets spinning around and around!

Jeruba's avatar

@CWOTUS, that sounds like Roget’s actual thesaurus, which was conceived not as a writing aid but as a brilliant attempt to organize language and thought by category. I still reach for my old hard copy when I really want to explore the dimensions of a word and the network of associated ideas.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think it matters. No matter what, once you know the word, it will start connecting memories and thoughts for you. Recalling is much harder than recognizing

greatfullara's avatar

I think trying to remember keeps the neuro pathways alive. It rimes with, it starts with a certain letter ect. It’s all a path to the word. Did i pay enough nutrition taxes to keep the roads well maintained? I love the internet.

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CWOTUS's avatar

@Jeruba, I’m not familiar enough with Roget’s original work. The book I refer to – kept at hand on or near the couch most of the time when I’m at home – is simply The Comprehensive Word Guide, by Norman Lewis.

kritiper's avatar

It would be quicker to remember the info rather than take the time to fire up the computer, engage my search engine, type in the request for the info, get it, search for the right source site, click the site, then wait for it to come up.

Pachy's avatar

Ask me again when you get to be my age. ;-) Heck, I’d be literally lost without GPS and Google Search.

At the same time, I know that using these shortcuts to knowledge and information has degraded my brainpower over the years.

LostInParadise's avatar

I read that, as we get older, it is normal to have memory lapses regarding names, though not normal to forget other things. I try to recall names without using the Internet. Part of the reason is the belief, likely mistaken, that the effort will slow down mental deterioration, and part of it is the fun of having some piece of information pop into my head, seemingly from nowhere. I will frequently recall the name when I am thinking about something elset. If I am stuck after a few hours, then I will go to the Web.

Coloma's avatar

The only memory lapse I am having is losing my freaking car in parking lots. How can someone with as sharp of a mind as I have, 99% of the time, not remember where the hell I parked? lol

dabbler's avatar

Remembering is so much faster than googling, and if the subject involves several thing to recall then remembering enables the kinds of quick synthesis and problem-solving that humans are good at.
If you’re googling every aspect the chance you can get the same synthesis going is less I think.

On the other hand google is great for casual curiosity and following threads of interest you never heard of before.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Googling is not faster than remembering if it takes an hour to remember @dabbler.

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