29 December, 2011

Debunking 101

(Excerpts from the "Debunking Handbook" by John Cook & Stephan Lewandowski - Published on/by and found at skepticalscience.com)

The last thing you want to do when debunking misinformation is blunder in and make matters worse.
So this handbook has a specific focus - providing practical tips to effectively debunk misinformation and avoid the various backfire effects.
To achieve this, an understanding of the relevant cognitive processes is necessary.

It's not just what people think that matters, but how they think.

When people hear misinformation, they build a mental model, with the myth providing an explanation. When the myth is debunked, a gap is left in their mental model. To deal with this dilemma, people prefer an incorrect model over an incomplete model. In the absence of a better explanation, they opt for the wrong explanation.

For the alternative to be accepted, it must be plausible and explain all observed features of the event. When you debunk a myth, you create a gap in the person's mind. To be effective, your debunking must fill that gap.

One gap that may require filling is explaining why the myth is wrong.

This can be achieved by exposing the rhetorical techniques used to misinform.
  • The techniques include cherry picking, conspiracy theories and fake experts.

Another alternative narrative might be to explain why the misinformer promoted the myth.
  • Arousing suspicion of the source of misinformation has been shown to further reduce the influence of misinformation.

Another key element to effective rebuttal is using an explicit warning ("watch out, you might be misled") before mentioning the myth.
  • Experimentation with different rebuttal structures found the most effective combination included an alternative explanation and an explicit warning.

When people read a refutation that conflicts with their beliefs, they seize on ambiguities to construct an alternative interpretation.
  • Graphics provide more clarity and less opportunity for misinterpretation.
  • If your content can be expressed visually, always opt for a graphic in your debunking.

(LGT PDF on my Google Docs)

Here is the original:

I am making this material available in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License

11 December, 2011

Is this how socialism works?

As a family, neighborhood, community, township, city, county, state, nation - We are only as strong as our weakest link...

I see some real value in this sentiment...

There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody.
You built a factory out there - good for you.
But I want to be clear.
You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for.
You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.
You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.
You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory...

Now look.
You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God bless!
Keep a hunk of it.
But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

― Elizabeth Warren