Our last post about psychological vaccinations for young folks to make them more resistant to social-media predators ended with the question: “What about adults? Who is going to vaccinate them against blindly accepting online messages that are intended to indoctrinate?”
The answer to that question is not a simple one, but, as sort of a self-vaccination program, there are some things you can keep in mind. Also, as you think about these steps, remember that they apply to evaluating information no matter how it comes to you, that is, online media, broadcast media, a conversation with someone, hearing a speech, etc.
No matter what the source, ask yourself some questions:
“What am I being asked to accept? Does it sound reasonable?”
“Is reputable professional evidence cited, or is it from joeblow.com?”
“Are there alternative perspectives with supportive evidence?”
“Who posted this? Do they to have an agenda? Do they have professional credentials?”
Remind yourself, “Few issues have a definitive yes-no answer. Answers usually depend on the presence or absence of other factors.” With that reality in mind, see if you can come up with situations where the content of the posting just would not hold true. Can you find a middle ground between the extreme perspectives presented?
Here’s a really important question to ask yourself that most people overlook: “In trying to evaluate this stuff, am I relying on my emotions or on my intelligence?” Remember, if the answer is “emotions,” the likelihood that you are accepting a distorted view of reality is greatly increased.
Finally, it never hurts to get the opinions of trusted friends.
Below are three practice items from Facebook and a speech for you to consider. Can you evaluate them using critical thinking, or do you find yourself being easily indoctrinated into their message?
“One guy gets on a plane with bomb ingredients in his shoe, fails to activate it, but now we all have to take off our shoes to get through security; since Columbine there have been 31 school shootings, but no change in gun regulations.”
“We’re building a new political party because the American people deserve better options than the extreme candidates that party bosses keep putting on the ballot. And with our numbers, winning is inevitable. We’re breaking through the two-party monopoly and the death of dialogue so that people who disagree can finally start talking again. Learn more at…”
From a speech: “The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”