Inoculating your students against Fake News / How to smell the Bull about science

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We are living in an increasingly polarised world where social media prompts us to have a view on just about everything. Once we have a view that is publicly aired we may be attacked and hence are forced to defend our position. We often then become tribal

If we were rational then being presented with evidence that our view may be wrong would be enough to convince us to reflect and change our thinking. Sadly this is very rarely the case and by being challenged our demonstrably wrong viewpoint becomes more firmly entrenched. Oddly, those with a strong education in science are not immune to this and are often the hardest ones to change.

The approach ‘You are wrong. here is the evidence to prove it!’ is not ineffective, it is disastrous! When challenged our belief tends to become stronger.

No one likes being taken for being a mug and so by highlighting the techniques that the purveyors of fake news/ dodgy science use in order to manipulate you. We can educate people to be skeptical (and to reclaim that word from the conspiracy theorists) . The techniques are taken from the study Inoculating the Public against Misinformation about Climate Change .

Im not keen on the word innoculate as it immediately upsets the anit vaxxers!! So I prefer Smell the Bull!!

What is scary is that evidenced facts presented to people at the same time as ‘alternative facts’ led to no change in belief rather like matter meeting antimatter ! See this article

What works is a two fold approach

Step 1 is to explicitly warn people of the dangers of misinformation

Step 2 is to explain the flaws in the presented misinformation. The example the researchers used was the Global Warming Petition Project where supposedly 31,487 American scientists have signed this petition, (saying there is no evidence that humans have caused climate change) including 9,029 with PhDs however many are fake – The Spice Girls apparently signed it !, but more importantly less than 1% of the signatories were climate scientists. The power of the petition was to create the appearance of the uncertainty the experts have, when there is actually a near total consensus that human activity is responsible for most of the change amongst the real experts. This video explains it beautifully!

Do we have time to teach this?

Or maybe the question should be do we have a duty to?