I read a study today and I catch myself nodding with my head all the time. It was an illuminating article for me. It explained many unusual situations I’ve found myself in the recent years. Non-sense discussions with people who insisted in arguments they had no clue about. No change in opinion even after I showed to them proven facts.
The article was about Illusory Truth Effect and explained how people tend to believe as true facts, statements that they hear all the time. They called them ‘fluency’, which means a statement you hear all the time and which your brain categorizes as something known and acceptable.
Findings of the Study
The scientist performed several experiments to understand how participants would react about false statements put in front of them.
I. All Participants Accepted False as the Truth
The study pointed out that all participants sooner or later came to accept as true, false statements. These were statements they say all the time and displayed nicely (appropriate font and writing, colorful presentation, etc.) The timing that each participant took was influenced by the level of knowledge they already had on the subject matter. Another factor that influenced the timing is how they saw the statement at the first moment.
II. Level of Knowledge and Accuracy Check
When participants were asked to check the accuracy of the statement at the first moment, they were more judgmental about whether the statement was true or not. In cases when the participants did not have previous knowledge on the matter, it took less time for them to accept the false statements as truth.
III. Differences in Generations’ Behaviors
Another important finding of the study was about generations’ behavior about the truth. Old generation, almost all the time, tend to compare the statements with their knowledge background. While new generation was less likely to use their knowledge background to compare the true value of the statements.
IV. No Change in Opinion
Even when people are faced with opposing real facts and arguments for the statement, they still continue to believe the statement is true.
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All these being said, it is very clear how politicians, marketers and other important influencers are capable to manipulate the public, especially new generation. They invest themselves and big budgets to continuously display everywhere the statements they want people to believe. The more people would hear the particular statement the more they will believe that is true and will make them even advocate it to other people.
How this is going to Impact our Lives?
This is a serious problem for democracy and other decision making that involves general public.
It is a real problem for free market development as well. With the social media development, everyone can influence general public or particular groups about important issues that involve huge budgets and important decisions for the planet and more.
On the personal level, we are turning to be puppets in the hand of people with power and budgets. If we are not able to control our mind to distinguish the truth from false and good from bad. Sooner or later outside influences could highly influence most of our life choices.
On parenting, our duty of children education is going to be more difficult. On one side our believes could be influenced and directed in wrong direction. On the other side, our children could be directed wrongly from similar influences, considering that new generation is even more open to believe information they receive from different sources. It will take more time and efforts for us as parents to be the main influencers in our children education.
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I’ve written some days ago about the importance of checking the source of the information we ‘download’ into our brain. Under the light of this study this becomes even more important. Finding out reliable sources for areas outside own expertise is crucial. The truth help us making good and sound decisions. But, obviously even the truth is now a rare commodity. Very difficult to be found, similar to other good things in life: sincere love, healthy food, sound professional opinion, etc. Dear friends, pay attention to what you’re listening to. Take care of your thoughts and the quality of information you feed your brain with. Never get tired to search for the truth. Make sure to inject the same mentality to your children too.
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