• Truth DecayEnough with the Quackery, Pinker Says

    By Colleen Walsh

    “Another contributor [to the opposition to vaccines] is the Myside bias, probably the most powerful of all the cognitive biases, namely, if something becomes an article of faith within your own coalition, and if promoting it earns you status, that is what you believe,” says Harvard’s professor of psychology Steven Pinker, whose latest book — Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters – has just been published. “It’s somewhat arbitrary which positions get attached to which coalitions…. It used to be the tree-hugging Mr. and Ms. Naturals who were suspicious of vaccines — a romantic opposition to science and tech made vaccine resistance a leftish cause. But now it’s more attached to the right. In either case, people are more adamant about protecting the sacred beliefs of their political tribe than looking at the best evidence.”

  • Truth decayDetecting Conspiracy Theories on Social Media

    Conspiracy theories circulated online via social media contribute to a shift in public discourse away from facts and analysis and can contribute to direct public harm. Social media platforms face a difficult technical and policy challenge in trying to mitigate harm from online conspiracy theory language. Researchers are working to improvemachine learning to detect and understand online conspiracy theories.

  • ExtremismResearch Suggests Racism Could Be a Genetic Trait

    Despite increased information and knowledge, racism is still a powerful force around the world. How can racist attitudes and practices have survived so many generations? A new study argues that beliefs that some groups are superior to others are deeply influenced by genetics.

  • Conspiracy theoryFinding Links between Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Political Engagement

    A belief in the existence of conspiracies — particularly among followers of extremist movements — seems to go hand-in-hand with the assumption that political violence is an acceptable option. However, the role that a belief in conspiracies actually plays in political extremism and the willingness to use physical force has to date been disputed by psychologists.

  • Conspiracy theoryDon’t Blame Social Media for Conspiracy Theories – They Would Still Flourish without It

    By Joseph E. Uscinski and Adam M Enders

    COVID-19 conspiracy theories have encouraged people to engage in some dangerous activities in the past few months. There is no simple explanation for why people believe conspiracy theories like these, and the best researchers can say is that the causes of such beliefs are complex and varied. And yet journalists, activists and politicians are increasingly blaming the internet, and social media in particular, for the spread of conspiracy theories. The problem with such accusations is that the evidence paints a more nuanced picture.

  • RulesAs States Reopen, Tensions Flare Between the Rule Followers and Rule Breakers

    By Michele Gelfand

    As countries reopen their economies, tensions escalate between those who believe it is safe now to resume normal business activity – and even ignore social distancing and the need to wear face masks – and those who prefer a more cautious, slower path toward something resembling pre-coronavirus life. These differences aren’t just random personality types; they reflect our primal social mindsets – what I call “tight” and “loose” mindsets. And unless these differences are better understood, it will be that much more difficult to navigate life under COVID-19.

  • Stability“Insider” Knowledge to Enhance Stability Operations in Remote Regions

    U.S. forces operating in remote, under-governed regions around the world often find that an area’s distinct cultural and societal practices are opaque to outsiders, but are obvious to locals. Commanders can be hindered from making optimal decisions because they lack knowledge of how local socio-economic, political, religious, health, and infrastructure factors interact to shape a specific community. DARPA’s Habitus program seeks to provide commanders with “insider” knowledge of local environments.

  • Truth decayHow Partisan Hostility Leads People to Believe Falsehoods

    Researchers now have a better idea of why people who rely on partisan news outlets are more likely to believe falsehoods about political opponents. And no, it isn’t because these consumers live in media “bubbles” where they aren’t exposed to the truth. Instead, it has to do with how partisan media promote hostility against their rivals.

  • Truth decayFlagging False Facebook Posts as Satire Helps Reduce Belief

    If you want to convince people not to trust an inaccurate political post on Facebook, labeling it as satire can help, a new study finds. Researchers found that flagging inaccurate political posts because they had been disputed by fact-checkers or fellow Facebook users was not as good at reducing belief in the falsehoods or stopping people from sharing them. However, labeling inaccurate posts as being humor, parody or a hoax did reduce Facebook users’ belief in the falsehoods and resulted in significantly less willingness to share the posts.

  • Truth decayFake News: Emotions and Experiences, Not More Data, Could Be the Antidote

    By David Knights and Torkild Thanem

    At a time when public debate around the world is suffering from a collision between facts and “alternative facts”, experts must find new ways to reach people. For example: Donald Trump has made more than 12,000 false or misleading statements since becoming U.S. president, and yet, he remains immensely popular with his political base, which is energized by his emotional and often aggressive displays. No amount of raw data appears capable of changing their minds. While it may seem fitting to challenge post-truth politics with quantitative research, statistical data and hard facts, this is unlikely always to be sufficient. If social scientists care about being relevant in the struggle against post-truth politics, they cannot merely rely on quantitative data and raw facts. They also need to do research that connects to, brings to life and fleshes out the struggles of people in everyday life.

  • Truth decaySearching for Truth: Q&A with Jennifer Kavanagh

    Senior RAND political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh helps lead RAND’s work on “Truth Decay,” the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. Her research has helped set a national agenda to better understand and combat the problem, to explore its historical precedents, and to mitigate its consequences.

  • Conspiracy theoriesTruth prevails: Sandy Hook father’s victory over conspiracy theory crackpots

    Noah Pozner, then 6-year old, was the youngest of twenty children and staff killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Last week, his father, Lenny Pozner, won an important court victory against conspiracy theorists who claimed the massacre had been staged by the Obama administration to promote gun control measures. The crackpots who wrote a book advancing this preposterous theory also claimed that Pozner had faked his son’s death certificate as part of this plot.

  • Conspiracy theoryConspiracy theories and the people who believe in them: Book review

    By Max Burda

    In Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe in Them, Joseph Uscinski presents a collection that brings together contributors to offer an wide-ranging take on conspiracy theories, examining them as historical phenomena, psychological quirks, expressions of power relations an political instruments. While this is an interesting and expansive volume, it overlooks the conundrum posed by conspiracy theories that succeed in capturing the epistemological authorities.

  • Truth decayTech fixes cannot protect us from disinformation campaigns

    More than technological fixes are needed to stop countries from spreading disinformation on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to two experts. They argue that policymakers and diplomats need to focus more on the psychology behind why citizens are so vulnerable to disinformation campaigns.

  • Truth decayRise of European populism linked to vaccine hesitancy

    There is a significant association between the rise of populism across Europe and the level of mistrust around vaccines, according to a new study. “It seems likely that scientific populism is driven by similar feelings to political populism, for example, a profound distrust of elites and experts by disenfranchised and marginalized parts of the population,” says the study’s lead author. “Even where programs objectively improve the health of targeted populations, they can be viewed with suspicion by communities that do not trust elites and experts.”