By EMERSON SUTOW
In 2011, a Princeton University-based research team conducted group decision making experiments and employed mathematical models and computer simulation to provide insights in uninformed human behavior. They found that uninformed individuals “tend to side with and embolden the numerical majority,” demonstrating that the spread of false or incomplete information can be detrimental to the greater population. (Pixabay/ Pexels)
Have you ever heard news from a friend that seemed completely crazy but you believed it nonetheless? Why is this? There is no proof and yet, because you heard it from someone familiar, you begin to consider it. This phenomenon leads to the spread of potentially false information that, in some cases, can negatively affect the greater population.
With the prevalence of false ideas, many people become confused when presented facts do not line up or make sense. Older generations may be especially prone to this misinformation due to a technological disconnect, while younger generations do not know the consequences of spreading possibly false knowledge. The thoughtless actions of a select few could misrepresent an entire generation as unaware or ignorant.
Gossip and rumors that spread from false information can harm people both mentally and socially, often leading to conflict among friends and family. Often, people give opinions on subjects that tend to offend or isolate others and convinced individuals continue to share those unsupported thoughts with others, furthering the misinformation.
David Feldman, an associate professor of psychology at Santa Clara University, argues that “many of the most important issues of our day hinge on people having an accurate understanding of the facts.” Feldman’s assertion supports the notion that doubt or falsehood in information can lead to controversy in daily life.
According to R. Kelly Garrett, an associate professor of communication at Ohio State University, he and his colleague, Brian Weeks, performed a survey that found 50.3 percent of people would follow their gut when deciding whether something is true or not. This suggests that a large proportion of people will immediately decide whether presented information is true or not without any prior knowledge on the topic.
Some common examples of false information include the belief that vaccines can cause autism, human actions have nothing to do with climate change and smoking does not cause cancer, despite extensive scientific evidence that disprove them.
People have many different reasons to believe these uninformed opinions, such as compelling personal experience. Most people don’t always believe opinions because they are correct; sometimes they believe them because it could affect the way others view them. Though these opinions have been disproven by peer-reviewed research and extensive studies, they still tend to spread and negatively affect people.
The spreading of misinformation results in confusion and can misrepresent a person to seem ignorant. It demonstrates why it is crucial to research a topic before sharing an opinion.