Google's PageRank Works Like Our Brains

from the what's-your-brainrank? dept

We’ve joked in the past about how Google effectively acts as a a secondary or “backup” brain for many people. However, perhaps it wasn’t so much of a joke. New research on how human memory and recall works suggests that the process is quite similar to Google’s PageRank in determining what things are more important and should be recalled first. Basically, Google’s PageRank looks at “popularity,” not just in terms of how many links a site gets, but also in terms of how popular those links are. Thus, if you get linked from a more popular site, that’s more valuable than getting linked by a bunch of non-popular sites. It turns out that the brain does something similar in linking concepts, judging not just the popularity, but the popularity of the concepts linked to the concepts. In fact, using Google’s PageRank turned out to be a better predictor of how a brain would prioritize words than more commonly known methods.

This could be an interesting finding for the artificial intelligence community. After all, many in the AI community have been trying to figure out how to make computers act more like human brains for years, and various brute force methods haven’t worked all that well. Obviously, the AI world has worked on various neural net research for quite some time, but it’s nice to see at least some confirmation from the psychology side concerning a way to match up brains and algorithms. A couple years ago, we noted that intelligence was often correlated to people who knew what to forget rather than trying to remember everything. What that really shows is that good brains are better at prioritizing and ranking the importance of something — and that’s exactly what PageRank is intended to do. So, now, we just need Larry Page to get back from his honeymoon and get to work on BrainRank. Or would that be PageBrain? Of course, it’s also worth noting that with the rise of search engine spamming, rumor has it that Google doesn’t use PageRank that much any more. Perhaps that just means that our brains are vulnerable to concept spamming as well…

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google's PageRank Works Like Our Brains”

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Boris Jacobsen says:


So advertisers that use sex or music or anything that isn’t really related to their product are just like the link-farmers

So by this reckoning, it seems the advertisers don’t just want us to think of sex when we think of their product, they want us to think of their product every time we think of sex! So that’s why I’ve developed a fetish for rubber washing-up gloves!

B-Ad says:

seems to follow

A program designed by humans to process and recall data processes and recalls data in the same manner as a human? Go figure.

I think Celebrity Gossip, Fashion, reality television and all of the things we are told are important but aren’t would be the equivalent of Brain Spam. Although, I think the human mind is vastly less competent at filtering the wheat from the chaf, and thusly we have E!, American Idol, Us Weekly, &c.

Steve Flinn (user link) says:

Re: seems to follow

PageRank is actually a subset of more generalized network “influence” algorithms. For example, PageRank only looks to see if there are links or not between nodes. A more generalized approach is where links are by degree, with 0 and 1 being the extremes. This is actually a better model for the way the brain works, which has analog connections between neurons. You can see the results of applying this more generalized approach with regard to personalized recommendations at our business thought leadership site,

Charlie (user link) says:

The use of a PageRank-like algorithm would explain some behaviors of the human brain. The most popular ideas or concepts require less processing time to recall, and the less popular take more. Likewise, the most popular pages show up first in a Google search, and you have to dig down deeper to find the less popular. The PageRank algorithm constantly updates; as new pages are indexed, the scores of the pages they link to are refreshed, just as the neural connections between frequently access bits of memory are strengthened in the human mind. It makes a lot of sense to me. The amount of information collected by a brain (of any type) is vast, and requires some efficient method of determining what’s important and what’s not.


(better late than never I suppose)

Online radio (user link) says:

That’s true, since Pagerank classifieds results by the number of incoming links and this is the exact way which the brain classifies the information. Studies had shown that people remember somethings better than others because we have more associations made with the first thing than to the second one. In the peoples brain, associations stands for links in the pagerank case.

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