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This is your mind on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

What Google Suggest Tells You About Intelligence

As Slate and Ben Casnocha have illustrated, since Google Suggest uses prefixes (or early sentence fragments) to find suggestions, just exactly what that prefix is matters. If you start a search with “How 2…” as opposed to “How does one…” the suggestions you receive would seem to indicate the level of intelligence of your fellow searchers. “How 2…” as a prefix will yield suggestions such as “grow weed” and “get pregnant,” whereas “How might one…” will yield suggestions such as “protein differ from another” and “account for the rise of Andrew Jackson to victory in 1828.” Not subtle differences at all. Of course, the classic one for me is the “Can I/May I” distinction. I had that one beat into my brains at some point.1 So let’s see…

Some suggestions for Can I… 1. have your number 2. has cheesburger 3. tap that 4. be pregnant and still have a period

Suggestions for “May I…” 1. be frank 2. have this dance

Not quite as entertaining as others, but then I guess folks aren’t generally asking Google for permission. I find the larger take away to be what an associate of Ben Casnocha said: we don’t lie to Google. The search box is the confessional of the 21st century.


  1. Another great distinction that will yield awesome results is the “Is it wrong to…” and “Is it ethical to…” distinction. 

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