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Andrew Neuendorf

Google is not God, but the omnipresent search engine commands an unworldly level of trust from its followers. Consider a 2007 study by researchers at Cornell University and College of Charleston, aptly titled, “In Google We Trust.” Students asked to research a topic on Google heavily favored search results with high rankings, regardless of quality or relevance. Even after researchers artificially scrambled the rankings, students still clicked on links that appeared higher up on the page. The students’ eye movements were also tracked, revealing a Sisyphean battle between sight and mind:

When looked at in combination, the behavioral data (clicked choices) and the ocular data indicate that while there might be some implicit awareness of the conflict between the displayed position and their own evaluation of the abstracts, it is either not enough, or not strong enough, to override the effects of displayed position.

The medium is clearly too powerful…

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