In 2011, Google coined the term “zero moment of truth” to describe how the internet changed the customer journey. Before buying any product, people search for information online, and what they find at this stage will influence the purchase decision. The information is gathered through multiple sources – social media, brand websites, search engines, reviews sites, etc.
We’ve all heard enough times that word of mouth is the most trusted sources of information, regardless if it’s on the digital or analog world. This doesn’t come as a surprise, it’s easy to understand why we trust people above anything else.
But what makes search engines so trustworthy that 73% think search engine results are very/reasonably trustworthy? More than finding it trustworthy, why do we feel comfortable enough to type almost anything we think of, every time a question arises?
I’m not talking about security concerns, that’s a whole different story, I’m talking about the ‘I think therefore I google it’, like there are no boundaries between me and Google, especially now that the search experience on mobile has improved so much.
The truth is that humans are born with an instinct to be curious, and Google seems to be the ideal place to meet those needs – we can search anything, at any time, wherever we are.
Distributed Memory System
The other day I came across a really interesting article by Daniel Wegner and Adrian Ward, that starts to answer this question. According to them, we’ve integrated Google within our distributed memory system. Humans sometimes delegate mental tasks to others – within our social group, we trust others to recall certain types of information that we can’t remember/don’t know and we automatically distribute responsibility among them.
If we can’t recollect information on our own, we know who’s more likely to know that particular type of information. By doing this, we expand the memory capacity of the group and keep our cognitive resources available for other tasks. Now, we treat the Internet (and Google) as a human memory partner, and we trust it as much or even more than we trust our peers – it knows more and gives us the answers much more promptly.
Not only we have the instinct to ask the Internet questions we don’t know the answers to, but we also feel smarter when we can find the information – even if we can’t rely on our brains for that. According to this study, cognitive self-esteem was significantly higher for people who used the Internet to find the information they didn’t know, and that’s because they had the illusion that they produced that information, not Google.
So maybe, in the end, when we want to know something, it doesn’t make that much of a difference if we’re asking others or Google, we’ll pick the one that’s available and I guess we all know what the chances are here.