Monday, January 12, 2015

Debunking Debunking

Lots of times, we seem to figure that if we run across something that we know to be wrong, we can tell the person who said it what's right and that will be the end of it. Anyone who has a Facebook account, though, will be reminded that this is wrong every few months when some of their friends post the "Facebook Privacy Notification" notice or whatever it may be called during that particular round -- because no matter how many times you post the Snopes link showing it's made up, it will happen again in a few months.

Psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol put together a guide to debunking that tries other methods and pays more attention to how the new information is presented instead of just what the information is. Real Clear Science blogger Ross Pomeroy writes about it here.

After all, a world where anyone can natter on about anything and make it look somewhat authoritatively done by placing it in a blog format -- um, where anyone else can do that, mind you -- new information can be considered just more noise in the machine. Even the sourcing isn't any guarantee that information is good or something to be listened to.

I've no idea if Dr. Lewandowsky's method is more successful than others, but speaking as someone who regularly tries to impart information to others I can certainly say there's nothing wrong with trying it out.

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