Fact or Fiction?
Simply repeating a lie makes it seem like the truth.
Way back in 1977 Lynn Hasher, a Temple University professor, and her colleagues published a study that revealed a lie repeated three times was just as likely to be believed as a true statement heard once. If a lie was printed along with pictures, its believability increased.
Add some emotional or moral language to your lie and the believability is further ramped up along with the likelihood that it will be repeated to others. Since people tend to repeat things to those within their group, an echo chamber results.
Worst of all, lies, for example, fake news, tend to spread faster and more powerfully than the truth. Propagandists of all stripes have long exploited this tendency to get their interests across in spite of the facts.
As we all know, social media has made the problem of lies overcoming truth even worse. And it’s led to a general belief that you can’t believe anything or anyone, including experts who actually know and share real facts.
Think about the emotional appeals and dubious claims of much of the advertising bombarding you, while the required facts are obscured in small type or rapid-fire language. A prime example of this is hemp or CBD oil. It’s suggested as a cure or at least remediation for just about anything that ails you. If you step back and actually think about it, does it really make sense that the exact same thing will cure brain cancer and hemorrhoids? Reminds me of those guys who used to travel around the country in their horse-drawn wagons selling bottles of some weird concoction to cure you of whatever problem you told them you had.
Step back and actually think about all of the claims that come your way before taking them at face value. Don’t wait for Facebook or Google to decide to be good citizens about managing the information they spew forth. Be critical in your assessments of what you hear. Assess the background, experience, and desired outcome of the person sharing the information. And encourage others to do the same.
What I have also observed is that people will fill in gaps of information or understanding with what seems like the least plausible explanation or the explanation that they are inclined to believe. Conspiracy theories are many times driven by a combination of the two and serve to validate the explanation.
The existence of UFOs, Unidentified Flying Objects, is a good example. Because it is unidentified and the source unknown, the gap is filled with “it has to be from outer space”. When combined with “the government refuses to release information” there must be a conspiracy, the conspiracy then validates the least plausible explanation and to many people it becomes fact or truth. The grain of truth, the object is unidentified, becomes the rock truth that UFOs are alien visitors. The echo chamber of believers give rise to experts who stoke the beliefs.
Similar examples can be found today in politics and the preponderance of rumors that swirl within companies and organizations.