How can you identify incorrect information from the consensus of trusted experts?

US President Donald Trump made false claims about widespread fraud during the 2020 presidential election. UNSW Psychology researchers have found a way to avoid being fooled by so-called “fake news” from a single source. Credits: Shutterstock

If more people tell you something is true, you will think you tend to believe it.

Not according to a 2019 study by Yale University that found that people believe in a single source that repeats across many channels (a’false) consensus‘), It’s as easy as multiple people telling them something based on many independent original sources (‘true consensus’).

The findings show how false information can be enhanced, based on advice from governments and the media on information such as vaccinations, wearing masks during pandemics, and voters in elections. Affects important decisions made. ..

The discovery of the “Illusion of Consensus” in 2019 fascinated Saoirse Connor Desai, a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Psychology at UNSW Science. He tested the discovery of illusions and found a way to keep people from being fooled by so-called “fake news.” A single source.

The study of her team Cognition..

“We found that providing people with information about how the original source used the evidence to reach a conclusion could reduce the illusion,” says Dr. Connor Desailly.

She states that the findings are particularly relevant to science communication best practices. For example, how policymakers and the media can refer people to experts. Scientific evidence Or research.

For example, more than 80% of climate change denial blogs repeat claims from one person who claims to be a “polar bear expert.”

“There can be situations where misleading health suggestions are repeated across multiple channels. People think that there is evidence or consensus, so that information. It can affect you to depend more than you need to, “says Dr. Connor Desai.

“But if our findings can explain to people where your information came from and how the original source came to a conclusion, it has the ability to identify a’true consensus’. Shows to be strengthened. “

Dr. Connor Desailly says the findings at Yale University were amazing to her. “It seemed to be an accusation of human ability to distinguish between a true consensus and a false consensus.”

“Original research showed that people aren’t good at this on a daily basis. There were many situations where we couldn’t tell the difference between a true consensus and a false consensus,” she says.

“There is a problem if you hear one person’s false or misleading remarks repeated through different channels, because you may feel that the remarks are more effective than they really are.”

Dr. Connor Desailly states that this example is multiple independent experts who agree that ivermectin should not be used to treat COVID-19 (a true consensus). consensus).

How to carry out the survey

The purpose of UNSW’s investigation was to understand why people believe false information when repeated.

“Our main goal is whether one of the reasons people are equally convinced of true and false consensus is that they assume that different sources share data and methodologies. Was to confirm, “says Dr. Connor Desai.

“Do they understand that there is potentially more evidence if multiple experts say the same thing?”

UNSW researchers have conducted several experiments.

The first experiment recreates the 2019 Yale study, with participants providing a variety of articles on fictitious tax policies that take a positive, negative, or neutral stance, and proposals improve the economy. I asked how much I agree with that.

It duplicated the “consensus illusion” that people are equally convinced by one piece of evidence, as is the case with many pieces of evidence, but to those who saw the “true consensus”, data from different sources. Added a new condition to tell you that you used it. How to reach their conclusions.

How can you identify incorrect information from the consensus of trusted experts?

An example of a created Twitter post used in the survey.

As a result, the illusion of consensus has been reduced.

“People were more confident in the true agreement than in the false agreement.”

In another experiment, 200 participants were provided with information about elections in a fictitious foreign democracy.

They were shown a fictitious Twitter post from the press stating which candidates would get more votes in the election.

However, the true consensus Twitter post provided people with scenarios where it was clear that the various primary sources worked independently and used different data to reach conclusions.

“Expecting many people to be familiar with such polls, looking at different polls is a better way to predict election outcomes than looking at a single poll multiple times. You will notice that there is, “says Dr. Connor Desai.

After reading the tweet, participants evaluated which candidate would win based on the predictions of the vote.

“When pollsters understood that they gathered evidence independently of each other, people seemed more confident in the true agreement than in the false agreement,” said Brett, a professor of cognitive psychology in the Faculty of Psychology. Hayes says.

“Our results suggest that claims approved by multiple sources are seen by people as more powerful if they believe that these sources are actually independent of each other. I am. “

The researchers later duplicated and expanded the tweet survey with 365 participants.

“This time, we had the condition that we received tweets from individual people who used emoji to show their support for polls,” says Dr. Connor Desailly.

“Whether the tweet came from the press or from an individual tweeter, people were more confident in the true agreement than in the false agreement when the relationships between the sources were clear. “

False agreement is not completely discounted

However, researchers also found that participants did not completely downplay the false agreement.

“There are at least two possible explanations for this effect,” says Dr. Connor Desai.

“First, such repetition simply increases the familiarity of the claim and strengthens its memory expression, which is sufficient to increase self-confidence.

“Second, people may speculate why the claim is repeated because the source believes it provided the most reputable or strongest evidence.

“For example, if different news channels all cite the same expert, you might think they’re quoting the same person because whatever they’re talking about is best suited to speak.”

Dr. Connor Desailly will then consider why some communication strategies are more effective than others and whether repeating information is always effective.

“Is there a point where people are skeptical because there is too much consensus?” She says.

“Can I amend a” false consensus “by pointing out that it is often better to get information from multiple independent sources? These are the kind of strategies we want to investigate. ”

Explaining the scientific consensus may help convince the denialists

For more information:
Saoirse Connor Desai et al reaches the source of consensus illusions, Cognition (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.cognition.2022.105023

Sami R. Yousif et al, The Illusion of Consensus: A Failure to Distinguist between True and False Consensus, psychology (2019). DOI: 10.1177 / 0956797619856844

Quote: How can you identify incorrect information from the consensus of trusted experts? (February 15, 2022) February 15, 2022 Obtained from

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How can you identify incorrect information from the consensus of trusted experts?

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