Thursday, September 27, 2012

Skepticism: A Key to Accuracy

I stumbled upon this interesting article about the persistence of untruth.  Much of it was a repeat of information I've read elsewhere, such as the fact that people more readily accept a statement as true if it agrees with their prior worldview and opinion.

As I kept reading I got more and more depressed, having all this evidence for the persistence of false memory but then I saw this section header:  "Skepticism: A Key to Accuracy."  It seems that people who have developed a skeptical approach to information tend not to be as easily fooled.

I remember during the run-up to the Iraq war invasion that I was the only one amongst my friends who saw through the lie about Hussein being connected to Al Qaeda.  I (heatedly) pointed out that Al Qaeda is a fundamentalist movement while Iraq is secular under Hussein.  But... I was living in D.C. and my friends had all been traumatized by 9/11 so they were predisposed to accept any idea if it seemed to mean added protection for themselves.  (I suspect Cheney had PTSD too)  I was living in Texas on 9/11/2001, so I had a little more distance from it.

But... I am also skeptical by nature and then developed my skepticism further after waking up to the ridiculousness of religious claims.  (Of course I believe what they say about skepticism because it agrees with me about skepticism being a good thing, but I have also never seen anything to disabuse me of that, and I have seen many attempts)

The article:
(pdf version:
in Psychological Science in the Public Interest December 2012 vol. 13 no. 3 106-131

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