I was saddened to read of the tragic death of Prince Harry. The young Prince and Father killed in a horse-riding accident in the early hours of this morning. Only hours after the news of the Prince’s death broke, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, choked on a cucumber sandwich and couldn’t be revived when ambulances arrived at his home. The world is in shock.
Then again, I could be making the whole thing up, couldn’t I?
Would you believe it?
It is so easy to post misleading information. A few twitter or facebook posts and a monster takes form, spreading like wildlfire across social media.
- Taylor Swift has been declared dead in news reports, three times, but remains alive and well.
- Some people stridently believe Paul McCartney died in 1966 and all appearances by him since, are mere look-a-like impersonators designed to keep the lie going. Confirmation for them is a song, by John Lennon and George Harrison which, when played backwards says, ‘Paul is dead, miss him, miss him, miss him.’
These examples are ludicrous, but is evidence that many folks will BELIEVE certain things about ANY subject.
Can we be certain just where our information comes from and whether it is grounded in fact or hearsay?
Person 1: Why are we still in lockdown? The Corona virus is nothing more than a cold.
Person 2: People don’t generally die from a cold. We must keep the borders closed.
We all have different opinions and perspectives and that makes for vigorous discussions around the world; discussions that sometimes affects our relationships. That is no less true for topics such as Climate Change and Corona.
Do you think about where your information is coming from?
Is it verified by authentic sources? What do you consider an authentic source?
A scholarly article backed up by studies? Anecdotal evidence? A blog post?
Confirmation Bias and the Dunning Kruger Effect
Is our upbringing, values, political persuasion or faith blocking our understanding? Are we only seeking out information that supports what we already think? This is known as Confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is even more pronounced in a world where we can use our social media to filter out information we don’t want to absorb and where we follow influencers who reinforce our existing beliefs.Rebecca Huntley
We all struggle with something outside of our experience level, says J. Marshal Shepherd, an American Meteorologist. Because of this, scepticism and individual biases can block our understanding and skew our opinions.
Rebecca Huntley states that focus group participants, with no scientific training or credentials, will pick apart facts and figures regarding climate science. This is referred to as the Dunning-Kruger bias.
This human tendency for people to think they know more than they actually do, as well as underestimate what they don’t know, is called the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Once people encounter a viewpoint that is at odds with what they perceive to be true, they experience discomfort, or cognitive dissonance.
Rebecca explains that when this occurs:
They then try to resolve their discomfort by arguing away the new evidence until it’s consistent with their own beliefs.rebecca Huntely
Inadvertantly they reinforce the skewed perspectives.
Is Your View the only One?
So next time you read or hear a report:
Question the accuracy of the information and be aware of what it is that might be shaping our views and perceptions, (or misperceptions), about science and the world?
Ask Yourself What News Sources You Rely on?
Check Your Bias?
- Take an inventory of your own bias
- Read broadly
- Evaluate your sources
- Share this information with others
More about determining misinformation here.