A man holds a QAnon sign outside the White House. Even if most people don’t act on their conspiratorial beliefs, such theories can still pose very real dangers.
Many of those who believe conspiracy theories do not necessarily act on those beliefs. Nevertheless, conspiracy theories can still spread dangerous misinformation that can cause harm.
It can feel safer to block out contradictory information that challenges a belief.
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Here are some reasons for the natural human tendency to avoid or reject new information that runs counter to what you already know – and some tips on how to do better.
Words can have a powerful effect on people, even when they’re generated by an unthinking machine.
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Fluent expression is not always evidence of a mind at work, but the human brain is primed to believe so. A pair of cognitive linguistics experts explain why language is not a good test of sentience.
You might make a quick and exaggerated judgment about what kind of neighborhood you’re in based on the people or flags you see.
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Social psychology researchers found that people commonly exaggerate the presence of certain groups – including ethnic and sexual minorities – because they perceive them as ideologically threatening.
So much uncertainty around risk can make it extra hard to decide what to do.
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People tend to dislike uncertainty and risk – two things that are hard to avoid completely during a pandemic. That’s part of why it can feel especially draining to make even small decisions these days.
Finding out what goes on behind jury decisions and the biases that influence them is hugely important if the criminal justice system is to work properly.
Was Italy hit hardest by COVID in Europe?
Anchoring bias meant we found it hard to get rid of the first bit of information we heard.
It can be easy to despair about the problem of misinformation. But the problem is smaller than you might think.
Vaccine hesitancy has been a growing challenge for more than a decade. Concerns about vaccine safety and adverse events are the most commonly cited reasons.
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
To help increase trust in vaccines, researchers analyzed data on adverse events to address safety concerns, and then used cognitive science to show how cognitive biases feed vaccine hesitancy.
The situation in the delivery room can change suddenly, and doctors need to react fast.
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It’s human nature to unconsciously rely on quick rules to help make spur-of-the-moment decisions. New research finds physicians use these shortcuts, too, which can be bad news for some patients.
Whistleblower Frances Haugen called Facebook’s algorithm dangerous.
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You have evolved to tap into the wisdom of the crowds. But on social media, your cognitive biases can lead you astray, something organized disinformation campaigns count on.
Facebook has known that its algorithms enable trolls to spread propoganda.
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You have evolved to tap into the wisdom of the crowds. But on social media your cognitive biases can lead you astray, something organized disinformation campaigns count on.
People tend to view social media posts more favorably when more people have liked, commented on or shared them, regardless of the quality of the posts.
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You have evolved to tap into the wisdom of the crowds. But on social media your cognitive biases can lead you astray.
People haven’t been as irrational during the pandemic as some initially thought.
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A society in crisis is more than the sum of its flawed parts.
Discrimination against job applicants with ethnic minority, “foreign” names is still endemic.
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Bias is a psychological process detectable in individual judgements. Noise is a different phenomenon affecting human decisions.
If what you’re reading seems too good to be true, it just might be.
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Whenever you hear about a new bit of science news, these suggestions will help you assess whether it’s more fact or fiction.
These psychological tendencies explain why an onslaught of facts won’t necessarily change anyone’s mind.
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Cognitive shortcuts help you efficiently move through a complicated world. But they come with an unwelcome side effect: Facts aren’t necessarily enough to change your mind.
If you’re struggling to cut back on the booze, your subconscious brain may be over-riding your conscious brain. A new form of brain training targets our subconscious tendencies towards alcohol.
We all love a happy ending.
Shakespeare was wrong when he wrote ‘all’s well that ends well’.