By: Pete Etchells | Fake news and neurobabble: how do we critically assess what we read? | Neuroscience | The Guardian
With unprecedented access to news and knowledge, how do we make judgements about what we read? Neuroscience news is a case in point
In an era of fake news and alternative facts, it seems as if our collective ability to critically assess information is starting to falter. We have unprecedented access to news and knowledge on a daily basis, but how do we make judgments about whether to accept what we read? There’s still a lot of work to do in this area, but an influential psychology experiment from 2009 might provide a good starting point – at least when it comes to thinking about how neuroscience is presented in the news.
Researchers created a list of facts that about 50% of people knew. Subjects in this experiment read the list of facts and had to say which ones they knew. They then had to judge what percentage of other people would know those facts. Researchers found that the subjects responded differently about other people’s knowledge of a fact when the subjects themselves knew that fact. If the subjects did know a fact, they said that an inaccurately large percentage of others would know it, too. For example, if a subject already knew that Hartford was the capital of Connecticut, that subject might say that 80% of people would know this, even though the correct answer is 50%. The researchers call this finding “the curse of knowledge.”