By virtue of convenience, college students compose the bulk of participants in many academic studies. And researchers, for their part, can't resist studying their subjects' exotic Internet habits. Recent studies have found that online culture contributed to a notable decline in students' empathy, and discovered that social-networking sites are breeding grounds for narcissism. The latest related study, conducted by a team at Northwestern University, finds evidence that these young adults aren't as Web savvy as they appear.
Students, according to researchers, rely much too heavily on search engines to determine the trustworthiness of online information (i.e. many believe that if a site lands first on Google's search-results page, then it must be more credible). "Search engine rankings seem extremely important," said researcher Eszter Hargittai in a university press release. "We found that a website's layout or content almost didn't even matter to the students. What mattered is that it was the number one result on Google."
Which is why many news publications are still grasping to figure out the "mysterious" Google algorithms. (Examiner.com, for one, appears to have it figured out).