Description: The internet provides us with access to vast arrays of information and research. Given this shouldn’t our beliefs be much more research based than they used to be? Weeelll, what about anti-vaxers? What about climate change deniers? Think about what the access to information provided by search engines like Google might do for us or to us especially when we are searching for information about things that we are afraid of? You have likely heard about confirmation bias, the notion that we are more likely to “see” or “hear” things on-line that confirm our existing beliefs and to not “see” or “hear” things on-line that challenge our current beliefs. Think about why that might be AND then think about how we might present information to people in ways that will move their beliefs in ways that better fit accepted scientific findings?
Source: Facts Aren’t Enough: The Psychology of False Beliefs, Shankar Vedantam, Tara Boyle, Maggie Penman, Camila Vargas Restrepo, Laura Kwerel, Hidden Brain, NPR.
Date: May 9, 2019
Photo Credit: Rene Klahr, NPR.
So, we generally act on our beliefs rather than acting on the basis of the weight of scientific research finding in related areas. While being interesting and somewhat alarming, when we consider things like vaccination and climate change, it becomes more important that we not only understand the impact of false beliefs and fake news but that we figure out how to overcome its impact of public health and the very survival of the planet. Important things to think about AND then act upon!
Questions for Discussion:
- Why might searching on-line for information about something we are afraid of lead to or support false beliefs?
- Why might fake news and false beliefs matter in relation to population health?
- Is there an “ethics” of false beliefs and fake news and if so who is responsible for understanding what it involves and for generating policies for moving it forward?
References (Read Further):
Weatherall, J. O., & O’Connor, C. (2018). Do as I say, not as I do, or, conformity in scientific networks. arXiv preprint arXiv:1803.09905. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1803.09905
O’Connor, C., & Weatherall, J. O. (2019). The misinformation age: how false beliefs spread. Yale University Press.
Sharot, T. (2017). The influential mind: What the brain reveals about our power to change others. Henry Holt and Company.
Del Vicario, M., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., … & Quattrociocchi, W. (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(3), 554-559. https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/113/3/554.full.pdf?__hstc=208435533.1bb630f9cde2cb5f07430159d50a3c91.1540598400052.1540598400053.1540598400054.1&__hssc=208435533.1.1540598400055&__hsfp=2025384311
Vosoughi, S., Roy, D., & Aral, S. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380), 1146-1151. https://www.americanvoiceforfreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/The-spread-of-true-and-false-news-online.pdf
Bolsen, T., & Shapiro, M. A. (2018). The US news media, polarization on climate change, and pathways to effective communication. Environmental Communication, 12(2), 149-163. http://understandgreen.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/The-US-News-Media-Polarization-on-Climate-Change-and-Pathways-to-Effective-Communication.pdf