A new study suggests people will forget information they know they can locate at a later date.

New research reveals that if people expect something to remain easily available, they are more likely to remember where they found the information than the information itself–but if they don’t think it will be easy to find again, they are more likely to remember the information. The findings could have huge implications for teaching and learning as instruction moves from traditional classroom stereotypes, such as memorization, to a more collaborative, mobile learning experience.

Columbia University researcher and psychologist Betsy Sparrow was watching the 1944 movie Gaslight one evening and wondered who the actress was playing the maid. So she reached for her computer and Googled it.

That set Sparrow to thinking: before the internet, how did we answer these questions?

The internet has taken a major place in the circle of friends where people look for information, she concluded in “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips,” which appeared in the July 14 online edition of the journal Science.

With colleagues Jenny Liu of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Daniel M. Wegner of Harvard University, Sparrow explains that the internet has become a primary form of what psychologists call transactive memory–recollections that are external to us but that we know when and how to access.

The researchers say the study is the first of its kind into the impact of search engines on human memory organization.