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SSCI 299: SocialScienceSYE

How to think like a Social Scientist: Information is constructed.

Information Gone Bad: When Facts Fail

Question: How can you deconstruct misinformation?

Fake News is the news that everyone is talking about. True Fake News is not simply a story that presents a biased  point of view or draws conclusions that you (or others) may not agree with. Truly Fake News can be defined as; "news which is completely made up and designed to deceive readers to maximize traffic and profit." (Wikipedia)

In order to be credible, information must be constructed from other credible information. Facts are one type of credible information. It follows then that presenting the facts will "deconstruct" this misinformation, right? Not so fast. It turns out that it's pretty difficult to change peoples beliefs, regardless of the evidence.

FACT: (Merriam-Webster)

  1. : the quality of being actual : actuality a question of fact hinges on evidence
  2. : something that has actual existence space exploration is now a fact
  3. : an actual occurrence prove the fact of damage
  4. : a piece of information presented as having objective reality These are the hard facts of the case.

To begin, read through the Scientific American article, How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail, linked below. Discuss the issues with your group. Then explore further. You can use some of the links provided on this page (confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, etc) or follow up on something else that sparks your interest. Each member of your group should be prepared to discuss some aspect of this issue. Use the questions below to guide your research and discussion.

Consider the problem of fake news and misinformation.

  • What are the barriers to debunking this type of information?
  • Is the misinformation issue limited to news sources or does it happen in other types of information?
  • How do you change people's opinions when those opinions are based on false information?
  • Is it worth trying to change people's views on fake news or other misinformation? Why or why not?
  • Are you likely to fall victim to fake news or misinformation? How can you guard against this?

For your group presentation be prepared to share:

  • Your specific question or problem.
  • A bit of background so that we understand the topic.
  • The major issues you discovered in trying to deconstruct the information.
  • Which sources were helpful in exploring the problem.
  • Any roadblocks or problems you encountered.
  • What information did you find beyond the links provided?
  • How did that inform your understanding?
  • What you decided as a group, or individually if you didn't agree.


Fake News/Fake Facts