Daily Bread for 8.30.22: Inoculating Against Misinformation

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be sunny with high of 78. Sunrise is 6:18 AM and sunset 7:31 PM for 13h 13m 31s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 11% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1916, Ernest Shackleton completes the rescue of all of his men stranded on Elephant Island in Antarctica.

Jon Roozenbeek, Sander Van Der Linden, and Stephan Lewandowsky write @ Nieman Lab about combating misinformation in Can you inoculate people against misinformation before they even see it? This study says yes:

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine, misinformation is rife worldwide. Many tools have been designed to help people spot misinformation. The problem with most of them is how hard they are to deliver at scale.

But we may have found a solution. In our new study we designed and tested five short videos that “prebunk” viewers, in order to inoculate them from the deceptive and manipulative techniques often used online to mislead people. Our study is the largest of its kind and the first to test this kind of intervention on YouTube. Five million people were shown the videos, of which one million watched them.

We found that not only do these videos help people spot misinformation in controlled experiments, but also in the real world. Watching one of our videos via a YouTube ad boosted YouTube users’ ability to recognize misinformation.

The study addresses the effectiveness of their approach. See Jon Roozenbeek et al., Psychological inoculation improves resilience against misinformation on social media, Science Advances, Vol 8, Issue 34 (24 Aug 2022)

(One of the inoculation videos appears at the bottom of this post.)

In an earlier time, long before YouTube, we were taught in school the main logical fallacies by name, with examples, and a responsibility to spot them when quizzed. There were printed lists that students went through, just as there were spelling lists, vocabulary lists, etc. That old method was, as one can guess, dry compared with a video (although we managed to get by). The use of videos is a useful innovation on that older method.  

What’s necessary, however, is that students are taught to spot and reject fallacies. This isn’t a subject that cannot wait for college, graduate school, or professional school: this teaching should be part of a proper K-12 education. It is false and destructive to say that everyone has an equally truthful point of view. Those who insist on true and false sometimes become incensed when shown that they’ve not thought through an issue. While obstreperous parents might think that their child’s reception into 9/11, QAnon, or election conspiracies is a legitimate position, it’s nothing of the kind. Children educated publicly or privately (including at home) should be taught to spot error, and gently corrected when they make mistakes. 

It’s not hard, if only one would try. 

Some of the same parents who insist they’re in support of Western civilization show little appreciation for the various methods that civilization crafted (and imported) to advance human reasoning. (They also misunderstand, as do shallow critics of Western civilization, how broad and diverse viewpoints often are within that long tradition. A few bullet points from a PowerPoint or cable talkshow chyron aren’t a substitute for solid reading.) 

Inoculation against misinformation? We can use all of the booster shots we can get.

False Dichotomies:

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