Culture & Life · Politics · Recommended movies, books etc.

New Science on Why People Believe Fake News

This was published by theWire on March 5, 2017. Here is the link. Below is an extract.

“To sum up, Mercier and Sperber claim that our faculty of reasoning is perfect for making, and accepting or rejecting, argumentive claims. They say this is its primary evolutionary function. But our reasoning faculty is imperfect – though not totally unproductive – when it comes to the finer tasks of arriving at rational decisions or producing reliable new knowledge. Skilled arguers, they say, “are not after the truth” but (simply) after arguments supporting whatever they believe to be true, or want the recipient to believe to be true.

This partly explains why Zee News easily got away with carrying a false story about the new 2,000 rupee notes having GPS chips in them. For their ‘claim’ that demonetisation is a ‘masterstroke’, they simply did the job of providing arguments that were easier for most people to accept, regardless of how factually-based those were. If an argument is forceful (“demonetisation will prevent corruption like no other policy before”) and coupled with commonly-accepted premises (“the nation needs radical policies to wipe out corruption”), then we can conclude from Mercier and Sperber’s theory that people were evolutionarily more inclined to simply accept it without going into further details (for example, how exactly does one equip currency notes with GPS?)”

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