Why do we believe weird things?
Fake news, misinformation, disinformation, these concepts are all over the media. We all know it’s out there, but how can we tell what is true and what is fake? First, let’s play a game…
True or False
- Salt makes water boil quicker.
- You should never swim right after you eat
- Some people are more right-brain thinkers and others more left-brain thinkers.
- Toilets flush differently in the southern hemisphere than the northern hemisphere.
- Einstein failed math.
- Humans and dinosaurs co-existed
- Vaccines cause autism.
- You need to wait 24 hours to file a missing person’s report.
- We use only 10% of our brain.
- Most of our body heat leaves through our heads.
- You should never wake a sleepwalker.
- Bats are blind.
- Alcohol keeps you warm.
- Sugar creates hyper children.
- Your hair and nails keep growing after you die.
- Slaves built the pyramids in Egypt.
In case you use this to generate discussion with your class, I won’t give you the answers. You could invite your students to check for themselves at Readers Digest.
It’s your brain’s fault
Famous debunker and Skeptic.com’s editor-in-chief Michael Shermer gives us a bit of insight into how our brain is wired to makes us believe weird things. He explains and demonstrates how things like priming and cognitive bias are natural neurological predispositions that lead us to faulty conclusions. This discussion utilizes vocabulary in both pure science and psychology to demonstrate, in very cool ways, how media can create what I will term “information blind spots.”
***Caution! I did this lesson with a high intermediate student and they were overwhelmed with Shermer’s speed. I would recommend slowing the video down and using this True/False handout to explain and explore some of the vocabulary and concepts in the video. Have your students read through the statements and make predictions about the possible answers. Then have your students watch the video to confirm or correct their original impressions.
Go through the handout and predict which statements are true or false.
The Video: Why People Believe Weird Things
- What makes us believe weird things…make a Mind Map of all the elements you hear?
- Are you a skeptic?
- Why don’t we listen to science?