Too much information


Did you know that the new ten pound note incorporates horse hair to stop it creasing?  No?  Well that might be because, as far as I know it’s untrue.  But I can still type that and anything else I like and send it into the maelstrom of social media.  By the time it’s been passed around a few times, and the origin has been lost, it could well become ‘fact.’

‘Fake news’ has been named as the Collins Dictionary ‘Word of the Year’ for 2017.  False information passed off as news or fact.  It can be ludicrously obvious, such as one of the first fake news stories of a WWII bomber being spotted on the moon, or it can be more subtle.  Misinformation can also be used maliciously to manipulate opinion and distort the truth. It can also be used to make money. How many emails have you had that start with something along the lines of, ‘I have ten million dollars that I need to move out of the country…’

Psychologists within the Centre for Research in Applied Cognition, Knowledge, Learning and Emotion (CRACKLE) have been developing techniques to study how much of the available information individuals accept as true, and how much they reject as false.   These techniques can be used to assess how vulnerable individuals may be to misinformation, and  to help develop processes to make people less vulnerable.

This work is so exciting that it has already been turned into a major TV series.  Or maybe it hasn’t.

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