Taking Part in The Conversation: The Struggle of Fact-Checking


“Here’s a quick quiz for you: In the biblical story, what was Jonah swallowed by? How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?

Did you answer “whale” to the first question and “two” to the second? Most people do … even though they’re well aware that it was Noah, not Moses who built the ark in the biblical story.” This phenomenon, called the Moses Illusion, exemplifies the way that people fail to notice errors that are right in front of them. Lisa Fazio, an assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, dissects this phenomenon in her latest article on The Conversation, “Why you stink at fact-checking.” In this era of “fake news,” fact-checking and error recognition is more important than ever—so why are do humans have such a hard time with it?

The first reason Fazio points out is that people have a general bias to believe that things they hear or read are true. The reason for this is fairly simple—most things we read or hear are true. However, this bias can cause trouble when people don’t think to verify information they read and then begin to spread it to others. “Detecting and correcting false information is difficult work and requires fighting against the ways our brains like to process information,” writes Fazio.

The second reason that fact-checking is difficult is that people have a tendency to accept information as long as it’s “close enough.” Think back to the example before. If the question had been “how many animals of each kind did Nixon take on the Ark?” you probably would have identified the misinformation. However, when something is not obviously wrong, our brain often tells us that it is good enough and to move on. It takes strong critical thinking skills to zero in on these errors.

To read about more of the research behind this phenomenon, check out the full article at https://theconversation.com/why-you-stink-at-fact-checking-93997