Thursday, February 23, 2017


“Our brains don’t let piddling little facts get in the way of a good story, allowing lies to infect the mind with suprising ease.”
By: David Robson
Level of Difficulty: **
·         Experts Explain: Norbert Schwarz and Eryn Newman on 'Truthiness' and Political Fact Checks
1.       What conclusion can be drawn from the account of flesh eating bananas?
2.       Why is the story of the flesh eating bananas significant?
3.       What examples are provided in the text of the above?
4.       Look at the two questions in the text quickly and answer them. Why, according to the text, did you not notice the mistake?
5.       We understand from the text that our decisions are influenced less by cognitive powers / rational arguments / instinctive reactions / family and friends / statements by celebrities.
6.       Consider the following example: a woman is in an abusive relationship. She complains about it every day to her neighbor. One day, she hits him over the head because she says he was trying to beat her. Would the neighbor believe her when she says she hit him in self defense? Would the neighbor believe the husband if he said he hadn’t touched her? Why?
7.       Read the following excerpt from a paper by Prof. Simon Springer “The choice of doing the first conference in an Italian small town like Reggio Emilia, where an established local anarchist movement already promoted events and publications on anarchist geographers is instrumental to the capital tasks of continuing a discussion among scholars and militants from different linguistic and cultural areas, and ensuring discussions involve grassroots movements and militant situations outside the academy” . How effective would he be in convincing the rest of his group to hold the meeting in this town? What suggestions would you give him so as to improve his chances? Use your own words.
8.       Watch the following two videos:
·         Stephan Lewandowsky - The Rejection Of Climate Science And Motivated Reasoning
·         Stephan Lewandowsky: Denial of Science Always Involves a Component of Conspiratorial Thought 
Now explain clearly why some people reacted so strongly to the Professor’s papers?
9.       Read the first two paragraphs of the section titled “Fraying Myths”. We can draw the conclusion from this section that:
·         Debunked myths are an integral part of our mental models
·         It is very hard to get rid of a debunked myth
·         Our world views determine who we are as people
·         People don’t like gaps in their mental representation
    10. There is a belief that leaches are useful in the treatment of varicose veins. In fact the leeches are sold openly for this purpose. But a respected doctor, Gregg A. Reger, MD
 says the following: “Leeches would have no effect on varicose veins but other highly effective treatments are available”. Would this be enough to convince the leech advocates? Explain.
11.   Now watch the following video and answer the same question: Would this be enough to convince the leech advocates? Explain.
12.   Google the following: The link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Check out the number of texts and videos. One factor that has fueled belief in this link is:
·         The number of scientific studies
·         The number of first-person reports
·         The amount of evidence to the contrary
·         The amount of material about the issue
13.   The conclusion of the text constitutes recent examples / a warning / implications / flaws / solutions.
Use all you have learnt to analyse the reasons why it is easy to spread misinformation.
This is a very topical text as it covers a currently trending topic: misinformation, and the reasons why we are so ready to believe it. This is a scientific text and examines the issue in terms of various typical human idiosyncrasies. The videos relate closely to the text and have been incorporated into the task
1.       Humans are gullible
2.       Because such cracks in our rational thinking can have serious, even dangerous, consequences
3.       HIV is harmless vitamin D supplements can cure AIDS
4.       Because we to save time and energy, our brains use intuition rather than analysis. I would not accept “cognitive misers” as an answer because it is not explicit enough
5.       Rational arguments
6.       The neighbor would believe the woman but not the husband because their story fits in with her expectations
7.       No he would not be successful; the paragraph lacks cognitive fluency. Possible answer: he should simplify the language and write in an easy to read font; he should have a picture of himself and have pictures of the town
8.       The reason was conspiratorial thinking which means believing that nothing happens by accident, nothing is irrelevant and everything has to have a very sinister purpose.
9.       It is very hard to get rid of a debunked myth
10.   No it would not because the doctor does not come up with an alternative.
11.   Yes it would because he suggests an alternative form of treatment.
12.   The amount of material about the issue
13.   A warning

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