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Using the internet “raises the bar” for precision in self‐produced question answering


When responding to queries for information, people control the grain size (precision–coarseness) of the information they communicate based on competing goals of accuracy and informativeness (Goldsmith & Koriat, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1999, 19, 167). Two experiments examined whether the act of searching for answers using the internet influences the granularity of the information people later choose to report. Participants who searched the internet for answers to general information questions later provided more precise (granular) estimates to questions in the absence of the internet when compared to participants who initially answered questions from memory and participants who initially were not asked any questions. These results indicate that searching the internet influences metacognitive processes underlying decisions about the granularity of the information we choose to communicate. The internet may “raise the bar” with respect to the informativeness of the information we feel obliged to offer.