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Can You Tell Fake News From Real News?
Most Americans believe fake news is a real thing, but most don’t think they themselves have seen or read fake news, according to research published in the prestigious Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers set out to determine if the average American could distinguish between real and fake news. They wanted to know if the public is susceptible to false news and, if so, is this susceptibility due to the public’s inability to recognize their own shortcomings when it comes to distinguishing the real from the non-real?
The study, conducted at the University of Utah, polled more than 8,000 people through two major national survey companies. Study participants were asked to evaluate the accuracy of a series of Facebook post headlines and then rate their own ability to determine the false information from the real.
The results were concerning! The researchers found that most may not be skilled at determining what is actually real or fake. About 90 percent of the public surveyed reported that they were above average at their ability to distinguish between real and fake news, when in fact most of them were unable to make that distinction.
Seventy-five percent of study participants perceived their accuracy to be 22 percentage points higher than it actual was and 20 % rated themselves 50 percentage points higher than their actual score.
Upon further investigation into the online behavior of respondents, researchers found that those who overrated their ability to discern fake news from real news more commonly visited websites known to publish misleading information. The overconfident group was also more likely and willing to share the false content, particularly when that news aligned with their political beliefs.
Earlier research has found that even though many folks believe they are a good judge of real or fake news, they are swayed by browsing habits that re-enforces their pre-conditioned beliefs. While this is true, the current study makes the case that being overconfident that you are a good judge of news content makes you more susceptible to consuming and sharing fake news.
The Ayurvedic Perspective on Fake News
According to Ayurveda’s primary textbook, the Caraka Samhita, the cause of disease, epidemics, drought, pollution, crop failure, and even climate change (to a degree) is corruption at the highest levels of government. Corruption, lies, fake news, and propaganda feed greed, which then infects society—and the earth:
“When the Heads of country, city, guild, and community have transgressed the virtuous path and deal unrighteously with the people, their officers and subordinates, the people of the city and community, and merchants carry this unrighteousness further.
Thus, the unrighteousness puts pressure on and forces righteousness to disappear. Then the people with righteousness, having disappeared, are abandoned even by the Gods. Consequently, when righteousness has disappeared, unrighteousness has the upper hand and the Gods have deserted the place, the seasons get affected and, because of this, it does not rain on time or at all. There is abnormal rainfall, winds do not blow properly, the land is affected, water reservoirs are dried up, and herbs, giving up their natural properties, acquire morbidity or die. Then epidemics break out due to polluted environment and food.” (Ch. 3. Verse 20)
The Caraka Samhita was written 2,500 years ago—but no doubt serves as a warning for our time!
This study gives us pause! Most of us are likely convinced that the news we are receiving is real, but science tells us that the more you believe that more we should be questioning our beliefs.
One possible strategy to help us unite and vet news better is to expose ourselves to the news on the other side of the belief system. The best way to know your enemy is to listen and understand why the other side believes what they do. It might be a challenge, but if you are a CNN watcher, try watching some Fox News, and visa-versa. If you listen to conservative radio, try opening up to being exposed to how the liberal side thinks and tune into a liberal station. You may find that we all want much of the same, or, at the very least, that there is more that unites us in our beliefs than divides us.