Friday, February 17, 2017

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

Today has been dubbed the "Day of Facts," and people and organizations around the world are participating:
A relevant fact is a powerful thing. In that spirit, Friday, Feb. 17, has been dubbed the “Day of Facts” and 270 cultural institutions in the United States and 13 other countries have signed up to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media to share important facts.

“The idea is for libraries and museums and archives across the country and around the world to post mission-related content as a way of reassuring the public that, as institutions, we remain trusted sources of knowledge,” said Alex Teller, director of communications at the Newberry Library. “It reflects recognition among a number of different institutions that while our missions haven’t changed, they’ve taken on a new significance in an era of alternative facts.”
Here's one of the contributions from Robert Martin, emeritus curator of the Integrative Research Center at the Field Museum:

Obviously, spreading misinformation is bad, and we should always strive to only share things that are true, but as we know, that doesn't always happen. The problem is that, even people with the best of intentions, who repeat the misinformation in order to correct it and offer the truth, can still misinform people. People will often remember things they read, but not necessarily the source, and occasionally, if they read something that repeats a myth (stating explicitly that it's a myth), people will sometimes just remember that portion. So they walk away from an article intended to dispel that myth with a stronger belief that it is true. This results in misinformation continuing to be spread. I know I've done the same thing even here on this blog, and it pains me to think anyone would walk away from something I wrote with only the falsehood. So here's a list of psychology myths rewritten as facts:
  • You use 100% of your brain, and depend on both sides equally.
  • Memory is incredibly malleable, even being changed by the present. Every memory you have is likely inaccurate in small or big ways.
  • Déjà vu is a perfectly normal, non-clairvoyant experience.
  • There is little support that people have unique "learning styles."
  • Mental illness is likely to be caused by a combination of environmental factors and physiological factors.
  • The most subliminal messages can do is affect your mood, and there is a tenuous connection between mood and behavior.
  • Classical music might make your baby a music snob, but not a genius.
  • Lie detector tests measure physiological arousal only. The results have to be interpreted by a person, and people are really bad at guessing whether a person is lying.
  • You're more likely to be attracted to people who are similar to you.
  • Increases in the prevalence of autism are likely due to a better understanding of the disorder, resulting in better diagnosis (and less misdiagnosis). We're also more aware of it now, so it could just feel more prevalent than it used to be.
For more of today's activities, check out the Day of Facts hashtag on Twitter.

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