As part of the Knowledge Resistance project, a conference was organised in Stockholm from 23rd to 25th August 2022 to bring together philosophers, psychologists, media studies researchers, and journalists and discuss recent work on misinformation. This event was organised by Åsa Wikforss (interviewed on knowledge resistance here).
|Stockholm University, Albano|
In this report, I will summarise some of the talks.
In his talk entitled “Resistance to Knowledge and Vulnerability to Deception”, Christopher F. Chabris (Geisinger Health System) argued that we need to understand our vulnerabilities to deception in order to appreciate the social aspects of knowledge resistance. He illustrated with many interesting examples of famous deceptions and frauds how deceivers exploit blind spots in our attention and some of our cognitive habits.
For instance, we tend to judge something as accurate if it is predictable and consistent. We make predictions all the time about what will happen and don’t question things unless our expectations are not met. Deceivers take advantage of this and, when they commit fraud, they make sure they meet our expectations. Another habit we have consists in questioning positions that are not consistent, and we tend not to like people who change their minds (e.g. politicians who change their views on policy issues). Deceivers present their views as consistent to lower our defences.
Another interesting finding is that we trust someone more if we feel we recognise them even when the recognition is illusory: maybe their names sound familiar to us or we can associate them with individuals or organisations that we know and respect. This feature is exploited by fraudsters who make sure they are associated with famous people or create fake organisations with authoritatively sounding names that resemble the names of genuine organisations. We also like explanations that are simple, precise, and told with confidence. Deceivers always exude confidence.
Leor Zmigrod (University of Cambridge) presented a talk entitled “Political Misinformation and Disinformation as Cognitive Inference Problems”. She asked how ideologies colour our understanding of the world, thinking about ideologies as compelling stories that describe and prescribe (e.g., racism, veganism, nationalism, religious fundamentalism).
Zmigrod studied two important dimensions of ideologies in her empirical research: how rigidly we uphold the dogma and how antagonistic we feel to ideologically different people. The rigidity is strongly related to dogmatism and knowledge resistance. The antagonism has at its extreme cases of violence motivated by differences in ideology.
What makes some people believe ideologies more fervently, be more extreme in their endorsement of their ideologies? The results paint a complex picture. Cognitive rigidity predicts more extremist ideologies, independent whether the person is at the right or at the left of the political spectrum. Intelligence and intellectual humility both turn out to be routes to flexibility, although either is sufficient to ensure flexibility without the other.
Emotional dysregulation (impulsivity), risk taking, executive dysfunction, and perceptual impairments all characterise extremism in ideologies. Zmigrod presented several findings where people with more dogmatic views showed not only lack of flexibility in a variety of tasks but also difficulties in perceptual tasks. She also considered how dogmatic individuals are slower at integrating evidence but make decisions faster, which means that they often act prematurely—before they have the evidence they need.
Joshua Tucker (New York University) presented a talk entitled “Do Your Own Research? How Searching Online to Evaluate Misinformation Can Increase Belief that it is True”. The aim of the research is to evaluate a common tip offered in digital media literacy courses: when encountering a piece of information that we suspect it may be misleading, we should use a search engine to verify that piece of information. This tip is problematic because we do not know what effects searching for a piece of information online (using search engines) has on our belief in the piece of information. The issue is that by searching online for that content we end up with unreliable sources only—because mainstream news outlets do not report fake news and so search engines return low-quality information.
|Leaf Van Boven|
- Repeat corrections
- Empathetic replies
- Alternative explanations
- Credible sources
- Timely response