Why Clever People Fall for Hoaxes?
Eight years ago, more than 10.000 people watched the exhibition of the "Blue Energy"
during UN Climate Change Conference in Bali
Before long, this project, which was said to get funded up to IDR 10 billion
is revealed to be a hoax
And then, we also heard a child of nation wanted to correct the law of the conservation of energy
Hence, some people were reported to have an intention to build a device that could generate perpetual electricity
And recently, we've been seeing the theory conspiracy around NASA and flat earth in our social media timelines
We also received many medical tips in our whatsapp even though its validity is questionable
Many people think that all of these stuffs are based on scientific method
It's a misconseption because those are just pseudoscience
They often use many scientific jargons
although the usage is not contextually correct and is against the well-established scientific fact
Even though they make extraordinary claims, they don't provide extraordinary evidences
Unlike a scientific theory which needs to go through a peer review method
a pseudoscience only needs to make a self-claim without a lab test from another party
Hoaxes, pseudosciences, conspiracy theories, all of these things seem reasonable at a glance
It is so believable that we and our friends sometimes help to disseminate it
even though the validity is still questionable despite of us being clever
The question is, why do clever people can fall for such hoaxes, conspiracy theories, misconceptions, and fallacies?
Most people do not really read and understand the information that they get
and they do not even bother to check the reliability of the sources
If someone is clever and careful enough, they should be able to check and recheck to avoid such a thing
But there is another thing which even people with high IQ couldn't avoid
Because this thing is a human nature
I believe, we all are clever. But, let's check the following picture
Can you see the dots which keep appearing and vanishing?
In fact, those dots never exist in the first place
Turns out, our eyes could be misguided
Hence, many things which seem real at a glance turn out to be an illusion
This kind of illusion also happens to our way of thinking
So sometimes we take something as a rational thing, even though we're being deceived by our own perception
Speaking of illusion in thinking, we're talking about cognition
Cognition is a mental process by which we are learning to understand something through thought, experiences, or senses.
This mental process can be disturbed by a phenomenon called cognitive bias
We can make a wrong judgment, lose our rationality, and even fall for a fallacy
Just like optical illusion, the tendency of cognitive bias exists in every human being
and it has so many variants
One of the examples is the bandwagon effect
Initially, we're not sure whether a news is true or not
But, after we see many people believe in it, and they even build a community
We develop a tendency of following them to believe in it
Of course, not everyone is having "follower" mentality, especially people who assume leadership role
However, leaders are human too
they also prone to another variant of cognitive bias, which is In-Group Bias
It's the tendency in human to favor people close to them
And it's easier to believe in what these people believe in
It's the effect of oxytocin which is responsible for the strong bonding to our in-group
and, in contrast, it leads us to be skeptical or even hating people outside our group
Do you still remember the hot timeline during the previous election?
Or a myriad of conspiracy theories which bring up the theme of "us vs them"?
All of these tendencies causes us to get trapped by social proof
We do not need to consider whether a thing is right or wrong anymore
as long as our social circle believes in it
Now, if we already have the tendency to believe in something
we'll be prone to confirmation bias
This phenomenon is the tendency to actively seek and favor information which supports our belief
on the contrary, we ignore the information which opposes our belief
Now, let's play a guessing game. We have five cards
Each cards has a letter on on side and a number on the other side
There is a proposition: Every vowel card has an even number
The letter 'U' has '2'
Now, how are we going to decide whether the statement is right or wrong
Given that we can only open one more card
Which card should we open up?
Think about it
Most people will pick '4' to check whether there is vowel
in order to seek an evidence which support the statement
However, even when there is vowel in '4'
it doesn't guarantee the statement was true
The one we should open is '7'
Because, if we have vowel in it, the statement must be wrong!
From this example we can see
How our tendency to prove that our initial guess is right
has misguided us to a wrong conclusion
In fact, to prove our initial guess is right
We need to consider the absence/presence of the negative evidence
Now, let's take a look into the typical argument structure of a conspiracy theory
Statement 1: A is true
Statement 2: B is why the truth cannot be proven
Conclusion: A is true
We will take an example from a conspiracy theory which gains attention lately
Statement 1: Earth is flat
Statement 2: NASA is conspiring to cover the fact that earth is flat by using globe earth theory
Conclusion: Earth is flat
At glance, it seems reasonable
But some facts are left hanging
Is it true that NASA is conspiring?
Is it true that 536 astronauts from 38 countries are also conspiring with NASA?
And if satellite doesn't exist
Is it possible that countries who conduct their own satellite research and development are also conspiring?
By the way, you can take a look at some photos captured by the satellite of LAPAN (Indonesian NASA)
On LAPANSAT facebook page
It's difficult for us to see whether earth is globe or flat with our own eyes
Because we need to get ourselves into the outer space
Therefore, usually conspiracy theories take small evidences which can be seen in daily life
and then try to mix and match them up to make up the whole story
to make it believable
Why is such a story so believable?
It comes back to the phenomenon of cognitive bias
First, human is susceptible to availability bias
We see the world by using a limited fact and information
Therefore, stories which we can personally relate to
or news which reach us
is more believable
Although in fact, what we easily observe does not reflect a general truth
It's possible that there are many information we do not know and facts we can't prove ourselves
In our daily life, for example
We can assume that earth is flat, and we have no trouble functioning in life
However, an engineer who design a long bridge has to take into consideration the curvature of the earth
the same goes when building a particle accelerator facility for physics experiment
Availability bias also makes us rely more on dramatic story, anecdote, or testimonial
compared to considering the general case in the statistical property
For example, lately, there are many news on plane crash
We become afraid to fly despite the fact that the probability of road accident is larger than flight accident
Second, human is susceptible to false causality
We are tempted to relate two things that do not have causal relation
For instance, we believe that this pen bring luck
Because every time we use this pen, we obtain a good grade
Another example, since we have olympics
Because swimmer has a good body, we think we can gain such a body by swimming
But, in fact, for an athlete, the body structure which fits for the type of sport they are playing
becomes one of the important factor for them to achieve
Human likes to interpret a random occurrence as a meaningful pattern
It's called apophenia
Try to listen to this song!
Have you ever listened to this song before?
This song was Isyana Sarasvati -Tetap Dalam Jiwa
played back in reverse
We're able to hear lyrics which never exist in the first place
And then, it's easy for us to design a conspiracy theory
That Isyana Sarasvati is a member of Iluminasi
Fourth, keep repeating a statement or story! Later on, it will be perceived as the truth
I am handsome (on repeat)
Handsomeness Perception Level: Maxed
After it feels like truth, it's gonna be the truest truth
it's not a confirmation
This is a neural mechanism called illusory truth effect
Mentioned examples are some illusions in thinking which lead us into believing mix&match conspiracy theory
To be fair, it doesn't mean that those conspiracy theories, speculations, and viral news were certainly wrong
in fact, they can be right
but usually, they are yet to(/couldn't) be proven
Therefore, our conclusion will be invalid
However, by employing cognitive bias which is inherent in human
Clever people too can fall for conspiracy theory, hoax, or misconceptions which are easily seen in the era of social media
Without the urge to seek for more evidence
Indeed, speculation is exciting, easy, and fun
just browse through the internet, and you can find the ultimate truth
by contrast, thinking is tough
But, in order to avoid the trap of hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and misconceptions, we must dare to think
for a smarter indonesia
Thanks for watching
This video is a part of the collaborative program of education channel made by child of nation
in celebrating the 71st independence day of Indonesia
Wanna watch the other videos? Click on the links beside
Hopefully, by increasing positive content like these, Indonesia can become smarter
See you in the next video and Salam Salaman!