Mind or Machine? Conversational Internet Search Moderates Search-Induced Cognitive Overconfidence

Kristy A. Hamilton, Adrian F. Ward, Mike Z. Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Searching for and accessing online information through search engines causes digital media users to become overconfident in their own knowledge – in a sense, to attribute online knowledge to themselves. If searching the internet via search engine leads people to conflate digital information as self-produced, what happens when features of our devices turn information search into an interpersonal situation? The proliferation of anthropomorphic technology underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI) may challenge the current view of search-induced cognitive overconfidence. In two experiments, we investigate how using digital agents to search for information moderates the misattribution of online information to one’s own memory. We find that, in contrast to using a search engine, using a digital agent to access online information does not lead to higher estimations of cognitive self-esteem (Experiment 1). Moreover, using a humanized digital agent may lead to lower cognitive self-esteem than using a non-humanized digital agent or thinking alone (Experiment 2). Whereas internet searches can make people overconfident in their cognitive abilities, accessing information through a conversational digital agent appears to clarify boundaries between internal and external knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Media Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • anthropomorphism
  • cognition
  • confidence judgments
  • metacognition
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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