Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age

Despite being out for only a few months, this book has already been re-issued as Weaponized Lies. (Do you think the current political climate could have anything to do with this?) The book provides readers with the tools needed to critically analyze information to discern the veracity. The nefarious could also read it as an instruction manual on how to get people to believe what you want, even when truth is against you. Many tricks rely on understanding how the mind will jump to conclusions. (Merely framing things with different language can make them appear different.) With abundant published science out there, it is easy to find some study that will validate a point. People will rarely check the actual papers, so merely quoting something will make it appear legitimate, even when it is not. Statistics and graphs can also be great tools of manipulation. Scales can be altered to make the graph tell different stories. The "best" statistic can be chosen to prove a point (a mean and median are both averages but can tell very different stories.)
The trick to understanding the "lies" is to dig a little deeper. Sometimes a story can be quickly identified as being impossible. (If something doubles every year for a few decades, it will end up in the millions or billions, even starting with a base of 1. If we are starting with a few people doing something and saying their numbers have double for a few decades, we could easily exceed the world's population.) Other times we have supporting evidence that is not really supporting. Or perhaps the "lie" may be burried a few layers deep.
The Field Guide repeats many items from the author's much more lengthy works, but does it in a concise way that helps us to understand the "truth" in the sea of manipulative information.

No comments:

Post a Comment