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The Illusory Truth Effect

Carl Sagan

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. ”

Carl Sagan

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

The Illusory Truth Effect

The Illusory Truth Effect

https://fs.blog/2020/02/illusory-truth-effect/

fs.blog

8

Key Ideas

The illusory truth effect

It's our tendency to believe false information to be correct after repeated exposure to it.

The illusory truth effect is the reason why advertising and propaganda works.

Why repetition reinforces a belief

The typical explanation is that our brains take shortcuts to save energy:

  • Statements presented in as easy-to-read color are judged as more likely to be true.
  • Aphorisms that rhyme (like “what sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals") seem more accurate than non-rhyming versions.

    Fake news

    Fake news includes:

    • Misrepresented information
    • News items are taken out of context
    • Failing to check facts or do background research
    • Using claims from unreliable sources at face value
    • Parodies

    There is so much skewed news, that we have a difficult time trying to figure out what to pay attention to and what to disregard. We also sometimes lack the expertise to assess accuracy.

    Information pollution is harmful

    The trickle of information pollution, like air pollution, builds up over time. The more we are exposed to it, the more likely we are to pick up false beliefs that are hard to get rid of.

    Propaganda

    People that spread propaganda rely on repetition to change the beliefs and values of other people.

    Propaganda can be used to improve public health or boost patriotism. But it can also be used to undermine political processes.

    The "firehose of propaganda" model

    It has four distinct features:

    • It is high-volume and multi-channel
    • Rapid, continuous and repetitive
    • It makes no commitment to objective reality
    • It makes no commitment to consistency

    Firehouse propaganda can include internet users who are paid to repeatedly post in forums and comment sections on social media disputing legitimate information and spreading misinformation. It pushes us towards feelings like paranoia, mistrust, and suspicion.

    Overcome the illusory truth effect

    Information we consume is like the food we eat. If it's junk, our thinking will show that.

    • Quit the news as a way of entertainment. If you want to inform yourself of something, learn from trustworthy sources.
    • Engage with timeless wisdom that will improve your life.
    • Stick to reliable, well-known information sources.
    • Research unfamiliar sources before trusting them.
    • Be aware of sites that are funded entirely by advertising.
    • Don't rely on news in social media posts without sources.
    • Pay attention when news items are emotionally charged, as it may be a sign of manipulation.

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      Information storms

      We often feel overwhelmed when we are exposed to a large volume of information. We also rely on secondary knowledge that does not come from any external source.

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      • When we encounter unfamiliar information on a social network, we verify it in one of two ways. We either go through the burdensome process of countless claims and counter-claims to understand if it is true, or we rely on others by way of social proof.
      • If we search for online information, instead of coming up with our own way of assessing the quality or the usefulness of every website,  we rely on Google's PageRank algorithm to come up with the best sites. In essence, we rely on other people to source information by use of user traffic, reviews, ratings, clicks and likes.
      How to handle an infostorm

      Infostorms are like actual storms: they are a product of climatic conditions. Different climates can produce different results.

      The more we understand the chain of events that led to a particular view, the better we are equipped to appreciate it if we are skeptical or take into account other perspectives.

      Paradox of knowledge

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      From Information to Reputation

      There is a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge from 'information age', moving towards the 'reputation age'.

      This shift involves valuing information only if it has already been filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. From this perspective, reputation has become a central pillar or gatekeeper of collective intelligence. We become reliant on biased judgments of other people.

      Reliant on reputation

      If you are asked why you believe in, for instance, the big changes in climate, you might answer that:

      • You trust the reputation of scientific research and believe that peer-review is a reasonable way of sifting out 'truths'. 
      • You trust newspapers, magazines or TV channels that endorse a political view that supports scientific research to summarise its findings for you. (Here you are twice-removed from the source - you trust other people's trust in science.)
      Even in conspiracy theories, people trust secondhand information based on the reputation of the sources.

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      The Impostor Syndrome
      The Impostor Syndrome
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      This is a form of false confidence, when we believe that we are above average in just about everything.

      Some people form a ‘halo’ around themselves at being extremely competent while being the opposite, as they are unable to measure or even see their shortcomings. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

      Realistic Goals

      Writers who are confident set realistic and controllable goals to overcome the impostor syndrome.

      Focusing on days or weeks of progress, with regular review/tracking gets us to know our productivity with supporting data, as opposed to our feelings that are unreliable.

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