Lazy brains: How can we avoid falling for misinformation

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Credit: SvetaZi

Our brains are lazy. The more effort it takes to process information, the more uncomfortable we feel about it and the more we dislike and distrust it.

By contrast, the more we like certain data and are comfortable with it, the more we feel that it’s accurate. This intuitive feeling in our gut is what we use to judge what’s true and false.

Yet no matter how often you heard that you should trust your gut and follow your intuition, that advice is wrong. You should not trust your gut when evaluating information where you don’t have expert-level knowledge, at least when you don’t want to screw up. Structured information gathering and decision-making processes help us avoid the numerous errors we make when we follow our intuition. And even experts can make serious errors when they don’t rely on such decision aids.

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In the modern environment, we can take our time to make much better judgments by using structured evaluation processes to protect yourself from cognitive biases. We have to train our minds to go against our intuitions if we want to figure out the truth and avoid falling for misinformation.

Yet it feels very counterintuitive to do so. Again, not a surprise: by definition, you have to go against your intuitions. It’s not easy, but it’s truly the only path if you don’t want to be vulnerable to fake news.

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