Sceptics Beware: The Dangers of Debunking Myths

[Originally posted at: The Lay Scientist]

Here is a PDF (Schwarz et al) that discusses attempts to improve decision-making – and the frequent failures of these attempts.

Ironically, the more people try to consider the opposite, the more they often convince themselves that their initial judgment was right […]

Similar surprises arise in the domain of public information campaigns. Presumably, erroneous beliefs can be dispelled by confronting them with contradictory evidence. Yet attempts to do so often increase later acceptance of the erroneous beliefs, as known since Allport and Lepkin’s pioneering research (1945) into rumor transmission. Again, the unintended effect arises because the educational strategy focuses solely on information content and ignores the metacognitive experiences that are part and parcel of the reasoning process.

The second sentence of the second paragraph of the quote that I have used has implications for sceptics wishing to debunk myths – including those about climate change, HIV/Aids, vaccination and other important topics.

[Read the rest of this post at: The Lay Scientist]

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About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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