How does information technology shape thinking?

Sarit Barzilai*, Anat Zohar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This study revisits a classic yet still intriguing question regarding information technology (IT): what difference does IT "really" make, in terms of people's thinking? In order to explore this question, the effects of IT in authentic research settings were studied through retrospective interviews with 24 academic researchers. Analysis of the researchers' descriptions of their learning and thinking processes shows that the effects of IT on higher order thinking strategies can be classified, following Perkins [Perkins, D. N. (1985). The fingertip effect: How information processing technology changes thinking. Educational Researcher, 14(7), 11-17], into first order effects and second order effects. First order effects of IT amplify or improve existing thinking strategies, without changing their nature, while second order effects of IT cause significant changes in the researchers' thinking strategies. The results demonstrate that both types of effects take place in authentic research settings, often existing side by side. This article explores several examples of the ways in which IT affects higher order thinking strategies (such as forming research questions, constructing models and evaluating information), examines the types of effects created by IT, the conditions required for these effects to take place, and the role of distributed cognition.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)130-145
Number of pages16
JournalThinking Skills and Creativity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Cognitive effects of information technology
  • Distributed cognition
  • Higher order thinking strategies


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