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Conceived by SoundEagle🦅ೋღஜஇ in the year during which coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) became a pandemic ravaging humanity, Misquotation Pandemic, Disinformation Polemic and Viral Falsity are three neologisms that aptly reflect the centrality of human behaviour in perpetuating and accelerating not only the spread of communicable diseases via human settlement and migration, but also the dissemination of misquotations and disinformation through social media, news platforms and mass communication, thus polluting the mind, media landscape and information ecosystem to the point of inhibiting or impairing civil discourse, human rights, democratic governance, social cohesion, community psychology, critical thinking, critical consciousness and sociopolitical development. The systemic production and dissemination of misquotations and disinformation are often not merely the result of ignorance, the absence of experience, the lack of acumen, the decline of rectitude, the dearth of morality, the rise of iniquity, the product of mendacity or the upshot of enmity, but also an outcome of the struggle and polarity in socioeconomic, cultural and political domains involving unequal access to and corrupt manipulation of information and resources. The outstanding effects and ramifications of Misquotation Pandemic, Disinformation Polemic and Viral Falsity have become so far-reaching and wide-ranging that they can (im)pose considerable disruptions and existential threats to humanity, as they inject layers of complexity and even intractability to diverse matters pertaining to information literacy, media literacy, sociopolitical impact, sociocultural disturbance, foreign interference, information warfare, knowledge security, social integrity, conflict resolution, civic engagement, democratic resilience, epidemiological response, sustainable living and environmental protection.
Throughout the world, the seemingly relentless, inexorable move towards a principally digital, mobile and platform-dominated media environment has ushered in not just modern methods of instantaneous communication with high-speed, expeditious access to information and applications online through worldwide platforms such as search engines and social media, but also the rampant distribution of misquotations and disinformation from numerous sources and across social networks. “Lies spread faster than the truth”, and “[f]alse news can drive the misallocation of resources during terror attacks and natural disasters, the misalignment of business investments, and misinformed elections”, as concluded in a report investigating the spread of true and false news online. The age of information has indubitably spawned the age of disinformation and the rage of misquotation. As a consequence, many regions and countries are undergoing significant disturbances or seismic shifts in their sociocultural, political and media landscapes and information ecosystems.
As the third decade of the third millenium dawns, the skill and resolve for winnowing truth from falsehood have become more wanting in humans than ever before. Falsity trumps honesty; fallacy swamps clarity. In short supply and chronic retreat are the cognitive tools and intellectual acumen necessary to recognize the errors or defects propagated in quotations, statements and claims from numerous sources, including the media, academia, luminaries, dignitaries, celebrities, ideologues, politicians, pundits, stakeholders, advertisers, influencers, Internet users and bloggers, particularly in the era of misquotations and disinformation, numerous instances of which seem to be intractably stoking people’s partial or utter ignorance as well as growingly courting their emotional drives, biased attitudes, cardinal urges, primal impulses and tribal instincts. Riding on these naked vulnerabilities, the unprincipled, ambitious, acquisitive, illiberal, ruthless or predatory opportunists, ranging from (those who are) wrongdoers, miscreants, malefactors and reprobates to profiteers, disinformers, obscurantists, hatemongers, extremists, plutocrats and despots, are able to thrive with greater gusto, impunity or even savagery because there simultaneously exist four of the most insidious and corrosive conditions fuelled and intensified by media manipulation and Internet manipulation, whilst frequently exploited and exacerbated by a sizeable number of ideologues, demagogues, provocateurs, influencers, conspiracy theorists and political elites:
- The prevailing anti-intellectualism discounting the humanist value to society of intellect, intellectualism and higher education; opposing liberal principles, enlightened perspectives, consilient approach, ethical mindset and holistic thinking; and dismissing art, literature, philosophy and science as impractical, politically motivated, and even contemptible or reprehensible human pursuits.
- The cult of anti-expertise sentiment (fuelled by information democratization, intellectual egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism) manifesting as misguided distrust, dismissal and denigration of experts and established knowledge by those in the public and in office, where facts, data, evidence or risks are distorted, ignored, dismissed, fabricated or concealed, and opinions or even untruths are upheld or promulgated as facts by ill-informed, misguided, biased or corrupt citizens and officials alike.
- The politicization of science for manipulating public policy and pushing ideological agendas, especially when government, business or advocacy groups use legal, political or economic pressure to influence or interfere with the survival, viability, findings, reporting, interpretation and dissemination of scientific research, or to impinge on scientific and academic freedom, independence, transparency and accountability; or when empirical findings and expert recommendations from the academic, scientific or medical community are subordinated to or distorted by ideology, dogma, herd mentality, political expediency or corporate interests.
- The use of populism pitching “the people” against “the elite” and brazenly disregarding critical matters ranging from empirical accuracy and ethical integrity to social justice, public morality and national security, whilst (im)posing greater exposure to and thus incurring liability of sociopolitical outcomes that damage democratic institutions, erode checks and balances on the executive, cause democratic backsliding (also called autocratization and de-democratization), and attack individual rights and the freedom of expression.[❆]
These four conditions have coalesced to signify a widespread and deepening rejection of critical thinking and objective reasoning, and a significant rise of conspiracy ideations, political misperceptions and illiberal values, resulting in the erosion of civil liberties, democratic principles, civil societies and social norms, whilst highlighting consequential aspects of social inequality and social polarization, all of which are cumulatively distorting people’s opinions and judgements about, and progressively affecting their roles and participations in, some of the most important matters in their lives. As well as being intellectually and culturally deprived or polarized, many segments and cohorts of the population can be easily convinced or manipulated to defend, support or purvey the interests, beliefs, agendas and actions of those who propagate problematic quotations, statements or information intended to be factually inaccurate, misleading, erroneous, spurious or conspiratorial.
In such a fractious world inundated and strained by misquotations and disinformation, human beings are proving to be as fallible in their responses to global epidemics and global warming as they are vulnerable to their own mental traps, thinking styles, behavioural patterns, psychological tendencies and cognitive biases, as well as the formal fallacies (also called logical fallacies or deductive fallacies) and informal fallacies (also known as relevance fallacies, conceptual fallacies or soundness fallacies) contained in their judgements and within quotations and information. The dramatic ascent and conspicuous rallying of false beliefs and cognitive biases in the creation of knowledge and justified belief have ushered in a ubiquitous untruth-oriented epistemology that undercuts the very notions of right and wrong, fact and opinion, integrity and dishonesty, reality and fantasy, truth and falsity. They also undermine the common good through their progressive weakening of (the social construction and integration of) sanity, stability and rationality, on which the advocacy and efficacy of empirical accuracy, ethical integrity, social justice and public morality depend.
The consequences, ramifications and corollaries of those aforementioned biases and fallacies often far exceed what people are able or willing to know, acknowledge, comprehend, control, curtail or circumvent. They result from mentalities and behaviours implicated in prolonged sociopolitical predicaments manifesting as widespread anomie and social polarization, which are worsened, exploited and confounded all the more by the (re)production of misquotations, misinformation and disinformation in the midst of post-truth politics, demagoguery, plutocracy, ochlocracy, oligarchy, kleptocracy, kakistocracy and narcissistic leadership. In that regard, let us promptly and unhesitatingly take a sobering look at the following rationale constructed by Owen M Williamson, a lecturer in developmental English, with trenchant but edifying words warning people against the lures and hazards of committing or contracting the identified fallacies, numbering nearly 150 and enumerated in alphabetical order in the Master List of Logical Fallacies, as if they are (persisting and replicating like) seductive memes, resurgent plagues, deep-seated infections, insidious contagions or communicable maladies capable of reaching pandemic proportions, so much so that whole countries or regions can be inflicted, blighted or overwhelmed by misjudgement, dogma, ignorance, hatred, bigotry, falsity, blind faith, moral turpitude, spiritual stagnation, epistemological impasse, social polarization, radicalization, fundamentalism, fanaticism and extremism:
Fallacies are fake or deceptive arguments, “junk cognition,” that is, arguments that seem irrefutable but prove nothing. Fallacies often seem superficially sound and they far too often retain immense persuasive power even after being clearly exposed as false. Like epidemics, fallacies sometimes “burn through” entire populations, often with the most tragic results, before their power is diminished or lost. Fallacies are not always deliberate, but a good scholar’s purpose is always to identify and unmask fallacies in arguments.
On the one hand, the dauntingly entrenched and often visibly worsening state of Viral Falsity is not just due to the ease with which falsehood can be instantaneously and widely disseminated online, but also owing to the dearth of timely mediations, consistent controls and effective sanctions aimed at deterring actors or agents from continually purporting, professing or manufacturing manifestly false accounts, even instantly falsifiable ones, especially those influencing or pertaining to critical issues or pivotal policies. On the other hand, peer pressure, powerplays, social sanctions and career consequences are some of the main drivers of headstrong investment in or obdurate alignment with (perpetrating) falsehood, even if certain outcomes are sufficiently dire or potent to lead the lemmings cheerfully off the cliff, all the more so in the absence of critical thinking, particularly when being divergent and avoiding pitfalls in the face of nearly everyone else being convergent and following expectations dramatically increase the likelihood of encountering disrespect, punishment or ostracization, and when the penalties for nonconformity tend to be markedly more severe and persistent than those for conformity. Given that the noise of competing needs and narratives has vastly amplified (inter)personal costs, cultural trends and sociopolitical outcomes since the advent of modern technologies and digital platforms, the search for and recognition of truth versus untruth have become much more urgent and essential, lest truth be even more liable to being drowned out by the cacophony of untruth.
The upshot of Viral Falsity in which the prevalence of falsehoods ranging from terminological inexactitudes to blatant fallacies has reached epidemic or pandemic proportions is that significantly more people are continually at risk of being preyed on and duped or manipulated by actors, agents or governments who disregard ethics, exploit public relations, exert financial pressure, execute political manoeuvres, enact problematic legislations, disrupt public discourse, obfuscate expert findings, unleash dubious or outrageous claims, normalize offensive speeches or discriminatory practices, or intentionally muddle the distinction between facts and opinions, so as to mislead or corrupt citizens, social media users, journalists, communicators, public figures, influencers or politicians into believing or spreading misquotations, misinformation and disinformation; and that the average persons, let alone whistleblowers or those who work in the service of (preserving or uncovering) truth, are much more likely to find themselves becoming a target of lies, rumours, hoaxes, astroturfing operations or post-truth politics involving personal attacks (including ad hominem, damaging quotations, trolling and flaming), smear tactics, misquotations, misinformation, disinformation, misrepresentation, sensationalism, fake news, alternative facts, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, yellow journalism, historical negationism or anti-intellectualism.
Even though the major sources and principal arenas of misquotations, misinformation and disinformation are social media, information hubs and news channels, there have been plenty of indications that actors and agents, whether individual or state-sponsored, are increasingly sophisticated and resorting to instrumentalizing peopleʼs ignorance in or concerns about fake news as a means or pretext to stifle dissenting voices active on valid social channels and genuine news media promulgated by those operating in opposing sociopolitical spectra or those who endeavour to uphold empirical accuracy, ethical integrity, civil liberties, democratic principles, human rights, social equality, social justice or public morality. Draconian rules or oppressive laws are designed to gag, constrain, scapegoat or even ban individuals, organizations or institutions by perverting or even flouting implementations of laws and regulations governing (legal matters and rights pertaining to) journalistic investigations and libel cases, freedom of information and freedom of expression, transparency and accountability, as well as academic freedom and judicial independence; or by restricting, obstructing, disrupting or outlawing the communications platforms and activities of such individuals, organizations or institutions in flagrant disregard for the international guidelines stipulating that curtailments on (freedom of) expression, assembly and association should be demonstrably necessary, proportional and legitimate in their purposes. In essence, such unscrupulous actors and agents can indeed not just arbitrarily manufacture fake news by fabricating stories, altering contents, changing contexts, forging documents, falsifying data and misquoting statements to achieve their objectionable, iniquitous or nefarious ends, but also wilfully designate anything valid, genuine or legitimate to be fake news as a strategy for manipulating information, misrepresenting views, manufacturing dissents, twisting truths, spreading lies, sowing doubts, casting aspersions, shifting blame, deflecting attention, denying culpability, avoiding scrutiny, glossing over details, making sweeping remarks, engaging weasel words, planting and fostering rumours, feeding conspiracy theories, raising false accusations, and deploying smear tactics. In short, fake news has multiply ascended to the unenviable status of being a convenient tool and multipurpose shield, to be raised up or bandied about with wanton abandon by any person with some questionable motive, agenda or purpose as a truculent denial, riposte or reproval not merely in response to some disagreement or criticism, but also with respect to something that jars with the person’s worldview or paints the person in a bad light, thus inescapably becoming an assertive embodiment of the Disinformation Polemic, a veritable gateway to bad conduct.
In the context of 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠 caused by 💬 Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic, whether or not such deplorable manoeuvres, malevolent fabrications and detrimental interferences originate from social, economic or political reasons, the ultimate cost or final jeopardy to society at large is that if or when even bona fide news media, upright officials and genuine experts who have been operating in relative autonomy with due diligence are forced into compromised situations in which their works and findings are arbitrarily politicized, misrepresented, suppressed or subject to Orwellian scrutiny and meddling by the “Ministry of Truth” in pursuit of power, profit, status or wealth through propaganda, chicanery and dominance, then the general public may not only lose trust and confidence in most or all content, but may also be much more likely to settle on whatever content that is espoused by their despots, promulgated by their demagogues, peddled by their politicians, proclaimed by their officials, promoted by their influencers, championed by their idols, endorsed by their social networks, reinforced by social media algorithms, recommended by filter bubbles, intensified by echo chambers, and fermented by Hype, Bias and Affect. All over the world, across the whole gamut of human civilizations ranging from rich to poor countries and from repressive regimes to free societies, a large-scale transcultural and transcontinental existential pattern has emerged with remarkable clarity: that without the solid presence of and copious provisions for some independent entities propounding, upholding and maintaining truth beyond the fray of private interests, sectional agendas, partisan politics, competitive culture, corporate pressure, bureaucratic wrangling, systemic corruption, endemic discrimination and ideological warfare, there remains no escaping from the stark reality that a vast number of people will continue to be needlessly living a substantially constricted, prescribed, reactive and contingent existence at the mercy of (being not just trapped, isolated, exploited, manipulated or indoctrinated but also propagandized, hegemonized, radicalized or instrumentalized by) their circles of influence and available technologies, no longer concerned with objective reality and impartial truth, nor reachable with verifiable facts, argumentation and fair reasoning. Long on corresponding with their hearts, short on engaging with their heads, and starved of consistent communications conducted via unadulterated forums or authoritative platforms fostering fact-checking, empirical accuracy, ethical integrity, civil discourse and civic virtue, more human beings are invariably locked into a dystopian scenario where All the World’s a Stage of Misinformation, which will persist in affecting perniciously and pervasively people’s views, beliefs and mental horizons about science, knowledge, expertise, education, religion, health, career, identity, lifestyle, politics, environmentalism, community values, civic responsibilities, intercultural understanding, international affairs and global issues, thus placing themselves at greater risk of undermining or impoverishing their social acumen, cultural capital, human rights, democratic privileges, information ecosystem, long-term sustainability, and the better angels of their nature.
The pernicious influences of misquotations and disinformation present severe consequences because the causes, effects and ramifications of misusing, misjudging or misinterpreting quotations and information, however invisible, unchecked and unacknowledged they may have been, can also include those arising from various mental traps, thinking styles, behavioural patterns, psychological tendencies and cognitive biases such as availability heuristic (also known as availability bias), ethnocentrism, anthropocentrism (also called humanocentrism, human supremacy or human exceptionalism), anthropomorphism, animistic fallacy, pathetic fallacy, reification (also known as concretism, hypostatization or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness), ingroup favouritism (sometimes known as ingroup-outgroup bias, ingroup bias, intergroup bias or ingroup preference), confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias), bandwagon effect, illusory truth effect (also known as the truth effect, the illusion-of-truth effect, the reiteration effect, the validity effect, and the frequency-validity relationship), truth by consensus, false-consensus effect (or false-consensus bias), overconfidence effect, selective perception, selective exposure, Semmelweis reflex (or Semmelweis effect), anchoring (or focalism), conservatism (or conservatism bias), denialism, reactance, anecdotal evidence, fallacy of suppressed evidence, positivist fallacy, Everest fallacy, Texas sharpshooter fallacy, illusory correlation, irrelevant conclusion (also known as ignoratio elenchi, false conclusion or missing the point), faulty generalization, hasty generalization (also called hasty induction, blanket statement, leaping to a conclusion, illicit generalization, fallacy of insufficient sample or generalization from the particular), glittering generality (also known as glowing generality), weasel word (or anonymous authority), jumping to conclusions (officially the jumping conclusion bias, and also called the inference-observation confusion), questionable cause (also known as causal fallacy, false cause, or non causa pro causa), fallacy of the single cause (also known as complex cause, causal oversimplification, causal reductionism or reduction fallacy), correlation-causation fallacy (often termed “correlation does not imply causation” or the Latin phrase cum hoc ergo propter hoc), implicit stereotype, fundamental attribution error (also called the correspondence bias or attribution effect), group attribution error, subjective validation (also known as personal validation effect), self-deception, self-serving bias (also called self-attribution bias), optimism bias (also known as unrealistic or comparative optimism), pessimism bias, positivity bias (or positivity effect), negativity bias (or negativity effect), hindsight bias (also called the knew-it-all-along phenomenon or creeping determinism), belief bias, belief perseverance (also known as conceptual conservatism), illusion of validity, outcome bias, choice-supportive bias (or post-purchase rationalization), historian’s fallacy, strawman fallacy, ad hominem (short for argumentum ad hominem), tu quoque (also called appeal to hypocrisy), quoting out of context (also known as contextomy or quote mining), cherry picking (also called card stacking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence), begging the question, circular reasoning, Bulverism, prooftexting, association fallacy (including guilt by association and honour by association), fallacy of illicit transference (including fallacy of composition and fallacy of division), slippery slope argument, continuum fallacy, splitting (also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking), argument from ignorance (also known as appeal to ignorance, or argumentum ad ignorantiam), false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, fallacy of bifurcation, or black-or-white fallacy), false analogy, false equivalence, false balance, divine fallacy (also known as argument from incredulity or personal incredulity), moralistic fallacy, naturalistic fallacy, appeal to nature, appeal to tradition (also called argumentum ad antiquitatem, appeal to antiquity, or appeal to common practice), appeal to novelty (also known as argumentum ad novitatem), appeal to the majority (also called argumentum ad populum, appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, vox populi, argumentum ad numerum (“appeal to the number”), fickle crowd syndrome, and consensus gentium (“agreement of the clans”)) and appeal to the minority (a special form of which is second-option bias), as well as appeal to authority or commit an argument from authority (also called argumentum ad verecundiam), authority bias and author bias. Some of these can be found in the following Cognitive Bias Codex.
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In short, the abovementioned heuristics, effects, biases, tendencies and fallacies stem from simple, intuitive, efficient rules, measures or schemas that people routinely use to judge and decide, insofar as they are mental shortcuts that largely involve concentrating on one facet of a complex problem and ignoring others, whilst filtering or filling the details with assumptions, approximations, constructs, prejudices, stereotypes and generalities that gel with people’s existing mental models. In other words, people characteristically fail to account for complexity and succumb to cognitive biases, since their perception of reality and understanding of the world comprise a small, narrow and ineludibly unrepresentative set of observations. Therefore, they are much more predisposed to concentrating on the pure, well-defined and easily discernible at the cost of disregarding the seemingly messier and intractable. As a result, people tend to gravitate towards the quicker, simpler, familiar, stereotyped or expected rather than the more important, challenging, complicated, unaccustomed or unpredictable, even if the latter ultimately results in better outcomes and processes, superior judgements and decisions, or worthier expenditures of time and resources. For example, people typically fall back on heuristics in such a way as to substitute judgement about something complex, partisan or contested (such as homophobia, xenophobia, racism, ageism, sexism, abortion, vaccination, genetic evolution, climate change, the environment, the economy, civil and political rights) with judgement about something simple, familiar or typecast (such as the perceived character, appearence, identity, status, wealth, profit(ability), authority, alliance or affiliation of those involved), especially when people are already deeply emotional about or committed to a certain cause, outcome, opinion, belief, dogma or myth, or are sorely deficient in the skill and expertise required to grasp (the significance of) cause-and-effect relations and to evaluate (the validity and reliability of) pertinent claims or issues, thus rendering them vulnerable to misleading information, fallacious arguments, erroneous assumptions and faulty conclusions. Consequently, whilst these heuristic rules or mental strategies may suffice under most circumstances, they can often lead people to commit systematic deviations from logic, probability, rationality, or even decency and morality, causing various errors in judgements and decisions. These errors can detrimentally affect not only people’s choices in their handling of quotations and information but also their choices in matters like valuing a house, marrying a spouse, evaluating a person, appraising a situation, choosing an investment, determining the outcome of a legal case, and (s)electing a legislative body, governing representative or political leader. In situations or regions where such flaws in judgements and decisions persist, intensify or conflate en masse in large populaces, there invariably exist outstanding implications and ramifications regarding information literacy, media literacy, sociopolitical impact, sociocultural disturbance, foreign interference, information warfare, knowledge security, social integrity, conflict resolution, civic engagement, democratic resilience, epidemiological response, sustainable living and environmental protection.
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The ease and frequency with which people commit formal fallacies (also called logical fallacies or deductive fallacies) as a result of their reliance on heuristics and their susceptibility to cognitive biases have rendered people highly vulnerable to the disinformation polemics or tactics of miscellaneous actors and agents ranging from antivaccinists, conspiracy theorists, science deniers and climate change sceptics to bigots, wrongdoers, miscreants, malefactors and reprobates (including unscrupulous profiteers, disinformers, obscurantists, hatemongers, extremists, plutocrats and despots), especially when people remain needlessly and steadfastly uncritical, illogical, irrational or intuitive to the point of being biased, misguided, fallacious, unjustified, unreasonable or untenable in their beliefs, expectations or conclusions even with respect to empirical data, factual evidence, verified information and universal truths as well as moral codes, civic duties and ethical behaviours that ultimately determine their own welfare, liberty or survival. The crux of this perennial human fallibility is highlighted on RationalWiki as follows:
Logical fallacies often result from some particularities of human intuition. A logical fallacy is not necessarily a Bayesian fallacy, so given a particular circumstance, jumping to the conclusion will be more likely than not, and get baked into human thinking as a heuristic. When the heuristic is applied outside its reasonable bounds, it becomes a cognitive bias.
The problem is that this can lead to one being grievously wrong about reality. So one may form an opinion by a heuristic (System 1 thinking [which is fast, automatic and intuitive]), but one needs to show oneself working to make sure that one hasn’t just said something silly (System 2 thinking [which is slow, analytical and reasoned]).
This particularly applies to thinking about science, because scientific thinking is unintuitive for most people unless trained into it; and to arguing your points in general, because heuristics are full of glaring exceptions.
The pervasive, entrenched nature and the unconscious, automatic influences of cognitive biases and heuristics in driving people to conform to various ingrained patterns of behaviours that cause systematic patterns of deviation from norm and rationality in their judgements and decisions over a diverse range of human reasoning and across myriad aspects of social life have attracted contributions from a sizeable number of academic and professional disciplines in the investigation and formulation of debiasing tools, methods, proposals and other initiatives with respect to cognitive bias mitigation, which facilitates the prevention and reduction of the undesirable effects and negative impacts of cognitive biases. These academic and professional disciplines include decision theory, game theory, behavioural economics, neuroeconomics, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, human reliability engineering, machine learning and software engineering. Particularly noteworthy amongst the aforementioned participating fields is evolutionary psychology, which has provided a broad, unifying and foundational metatheoretical framework that integrates the entire field of psychology, as has evolutionary biology for biology. Linking various topics hitherto examined separately, evolutionary psychology has allowed existing issues to be (re)considered from multiple angles and different perspectives, even questioning some extant paradigms and assumptions in line with intellectual advances, whilst also allowing corrections and alternative interpretations, such that the examination of human psychological processes from the modern evolutionary perspective of the principle of natural selection and adaptations that have produced those processes can come to bear. On the basis that human traits or behaviours that manifest universally in all cultures must have been inherited and thus are good candidates for continuing evolutionary adaptations, evolutionary psychology has posited on the evolutionary premise that cognitive biases and heuristics are not so much mental flaws as they are adaptive mental features conferring fitness to the human species, even though such features can readily become overstretched or maladaptive when confronted by the modern demands of contemporary societies, thus revealing their limitations, weaknesses or imperfections, as discussed below in relation to cognitive bias mitigation:
This discipline explicitly challenges the prevalent view that humans are rational agents maximizing expected value/utility, using formal analytical methods to do so. Practitioners such as Cosmides, Tooby, Haselton, Confer and others posit that cognitive biases are more properly referred to as cognitive heuristics, and should be viewed as a toolkit of cognitive shortcuts selected for by evolutionary pressure and thus are features rather than flaws, as assumed in the prevalent view. Theoretical models and analyses supporting this view are plentiful. This view suggests that negative reasoning outcomes arise primarily because the reasoning challenges faced by modern humans, and the social and political context within which these are presented, make demands on our ancient ‘heuristic toolkit’ that at best create confusion as to which heuristics to apply in a given situation, and at worst generate what adherents of the prevalent view call ‘reasoning errors’.…
There is an emerging convergence between evolutionary psychology and the concept of our reasoning mechanism being segregated (approximately) into ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’. In this view, System 1 is the ‘first line’ of cognitive processing of all perceptions, including internally generated ‘pseudo-perceptions’, which automatically, subconsciously and near-instantaneously produces emotionally valenced judgments of their probable effect on the individual’s well-being. By contrast, System 2 is responsible for ‘executive control’, taking System 1’s judgments as advisories, making future predictions, via prospection, of their actualization and then choosing which advisories, if any, to act on. In this view, System 2 is slow, simple-minded and lazy, usually defaulting to System 1 advisories and overriding them only when intensively trained to do so or when cognitive dissonance would result. In this view, our ‘heuristic toolkit’ resides largely in System 1, conforming to the view of cognitive biases being unconscious, automatic and very difficult to detect and override. Evolutionary psychology practitioners emphasize that our heuristic toolkit, despite the apparent abundance of ‘reasoning errors’ attributed to it, actually performs exceptionally well, given the rate at which it must operate, the range of judgments it produces, and the stakes involved. The System 1/2 view of the human reasoning mechanism appears to have empirical plausibility (see Neuroscience, next, and for empirical and theoretical arguments against, see ) and thus may contribute to a theory and practice of cognitive bias mitigation.
How the human mental faculty yoked with evolutionarily honed heuristics and cognitive biases become manifestly ill-suited to the contemporary life in the face of modern excesses can be further demonstrated as follows. As a critical writer and liberal thinker maintaining a productive blog named “The Psy of Life: Understanding the psychology that drives our politics” where SoundEagle🦅ೋღஜஇ sent him an invitation to share his thoughts about the increasing number of people being plagued by herd mentality, ignorance, dogma, falsity, blind faith, moral turpitude, spiritual stagnation and epistemological impasse, CalicoJack generously commented as follows about the evolutionary outcome and cost of cognitive biases and heuristics, which had benefited the survival of our distant ancestors living in the wilderness, but have become the very source and propulsion of maladaptive behaviours and social liabilities relentlessly impinging on those of us who exist by birth or choice as modern inhabitants in the complex, fast-paced, consumerist, hyperconnected and information-laden world, and persistently causing the unwary amongst us to be grossly misinformed, misguided, misdirected and perpetually vulnerable to devious or unscrupulous manipulation and exploitation by those who covet profit, power, status or attention with reprehensible means or motives. Should there continue to be little or no significant remedy, fundamental intervention, enforceable regulation or effective (re)education to curtail or minimize the adverse impacts and fallouts of cognitive biases and heuristics fuelled and exacerbated by Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity, a growing proportion of the human population will be in great danger of being trapped even more deeply in a downward spiral towards a thorny, bizarre, confusing or nonsensical state or situation, hopelessly and needlessly bogged down in protracted idiocy, recklessness, indiscretion, miscalculation, short-sightedness, irresponsibility, degeneracy, resentment, antagonism, conservatism bias, denialism, reactance, social polarization and anomie, ultimately leading to severe tearing of the social fabric and even self-destruction of the human race:
You hit upon an idea that I think is critical when we are considering these cognitive biases and heuristics. I think we have to accept that they evolved, and if they evolved, then we have to accept that they serve a constructive purpose. That purpose is two fold: (1) to allow us as individuals to make quick decisions without using too much of our energy — our brains are energy hogs using a full 20% of our energy. And (2) to help us [to] live and function as a group. On the savannas where we evolved as hunter-gatherers a single human being was quite vulnerable, but a group was quite formidable. We absolutely had to live [as a] group to survive. Agreement was crucial to our survival, so we developed ways of interacting that allowed us to accept and rationalize points-of-view. The harshness of the environment tended to keep most of those views reality based and grounded. People who believed [that] they could command a charging predator to stop tended to be eliminated from the gene pool, for example. Things that were less immediate, however, like communicable diseases, the thinking of the group could vary a bit because of the ineffectiveness of any response until germ theory was discovered.
Now, we find ourselves in a very different environment with an overwhelming amount of information about complex problems. Under these circumstances, many of our cognitive biases and heuristics work against us leading us down rabbit holes of ineffective response as we witness with the anti-maskers and anti-vac and other conspiracy theories.
The irony is that the cognitive biases and heuristics — along with the dietary proclivities of seeking sweet, greasy, salty foods — that allowed us to evolve to the height we’ve achieved today are threatening to destroy us. Unfortunately, we have cynical politicians who have discovered how to manipulate and exploit these tendencies and don’t really care how much harm they cause to the masses as long as they enrich themselves.
Overall, the workings of cognitive biases and heuristics seldom originate from what can be categorically deemed as a rational affair, a logical process, an objective engagement, a mechanized activity or a systematic procedure. For example, our daily lives and routines are all too easily and frequently coloured by and conflated with our emotions, which are valenced reactions invariably intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, creativity and motivation. Unlike computers, machines, robots, automata and artificial intelligence, we as humans are hardly ever equipped with a clear default, tidy reset, handy reboot or even expedient reprogramming for recalibrating our minds to a neutral position to free us from (the costs and effects incurred by) our emotional baggage and aftermath. Throughout the waking hours, we are continually carried along by many psychological processes, mental habits and internal states, which can influence our judgements and decisions by stealth. Given that people are responsive beings whose current emotions (such as joy, pleasure, empathy, trust, pride, confidence, surprise, hope, fear, anger, anxiety, contempt and other conscious experience) habitually influence their decisions, it would be quite difficult to avoid the affect heuristic, which is a rapid, involuntary emotional response, a kind of mental shortcut described in Wikipedia as
a subconscious process that shortens the decision-making process and allows people to function without having to complete an extensive search for information. It is shorter in duration than a mood, occurring rapidly and involuntarily in response to a stimulus. Reading the words “lung cancer” usually generates an affect of dread, while reading the words “mother’s love” usually generates a feeling of affection and comfort. The affect heuristic is typically used while judging the risks and benefits of something, depending on the positive or negative feelings that people associate with a stimulus. It is the equivalent of “going with your gut”. If their feelings towards an activity are positive, then people are more likely to judge the risks as low and the benefits high. On the other hand, if their feelings towards an activity are negative, they are more likely to perceive the risks as high and benefits low.
In other words, the affect heuristic is a simple, efficient rule that people often intuitively use to form judgements and make decisions such that emotional response, or in the common parlance of psychology, “affect”, plays a major and leading role. As a general term describing mental processes that involve feeling, affect refers to the underlying experience of mood, feeling, emotion or desire as influencing behaviour, and is thus significantly contrasted with cognition, motivation and action. People are repeatedly prone to being dependent on affect heuristic and therefore (en)tangled by the outcome of their emotional experience because the human mind, as intelligent, adaptive and complex as it is, has evolved to be a cognitive miser due to the innate proclivity of human beings to think and solve problems in simpler and less effortful ways rather than in more sophisticated and operose manners, irrespective of their intelligence. This proclivity can be even more pronounced when people have to make judgement under uncertainty by relying on heuristics and biases, as concluded in the seminal research of Israeli cognitive and mathematical psychologist Amos Nathan Tversky, and Israeli psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman, who is also the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Moulded by affect heuristic, these (judge)mental shortcuts are helpful in daily life since they provide effort-reduction and simplification in decision-making to offset or compensate for the limited human capacity to process information comprehensively or exhaustively. Whilst such shortcuts assist people in quickly getting to where they want or need to be, many of the shortcuts can often increase the likelihood, risk and cost of people being sent off course, because people’s judgement and reasoning can be (subtly, surreptitiously or subconsciously) influenced and distorted by people’s affective states and their concomitant experiencing of feelings or emotions, which in turn can make people more partial, irrational, injudicious or susceptible to unscrupulous manipulation, deception or self-justification, and by extension, predisposing them to becoming willing perpetrators or fair victims of Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic, given the prevalence and potency of both in fuelling and exacerbating Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity.
In essence, human beings are, by their very nature, creatures that habitually gravitate to being cognitive misers and lazy thinkers who are, under most circumstances, neither innately inclined to nor particularly adept at expending additional cognitive effort to assimilate information and evaluate its veracity simultaneously. According to the 1957 book entitled Models of Man: Social and Rational, written by Herbert Alexander Simon, an American economist, political scientist and cognitive psychologist renowned for being designated as the prophet of bounded rationality and a founder of artificial intelligence and cognitive science, for his interdisciplinary research straddling the domains of cognitive science, computer science, public administration, management and political science, and for receiving the Turing Award in 1975 and the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978, people usually settle for a decision or solution that is simply good enough, adequate or satisfactory rather than engage (unhesitatingly, automatically, purposefully or rationally) in thorough, extensive or reflective decision-making. To do so, they typically rely much more on their intuition or gut instinct on the one hand, and correspondingly much less on their critical thinking on the other. Although people may use intuition to acquire knowledge or understand something without recourse to conscious reasoning, strategic assessment or analytical deliberation, thus saving them cognitive energy for things or issues that matter and therefore staving off decision fatigue, they nevertheless may often have little or no reservation in applying intuition to things or issues that matter or bear consequence, thereby exposing themselves to the fallout of their cognitive biases and miscalculations with respect to the risks, pitfalls and costs incurred by extant misquotations and disinformation. Consequently, individuals relying on heuristic strategies, unchallenged assumptions or preexisting knowledge structures when confronted with seemingly persuasive messages contaminated by or engineered with misquotations and disinformation are less likely to engage in systematic examination of the contents or arguments, and more likely to rely on their feelings, intuitions, perceptions, beliefs, implicit stereotypes, emotional reasoning or motivated reasoning to adjudicate the validity and veracity of the messages.
All in all, even though how we process quotations and information that come into our lives may often seem or feel to be a straightforward matter, the quality and quantity of quotations and information involved, and the kind of interactions and situations that we frequently find ourselves in or surrender ourselves to, can sometimes render us (much) more vulnerable to questionable influences or interferences, propelling us to compromise against our better judgement, luring us to act contrary to the better angels of our nature, or worse still, causing us to slip back into bad habits, mental traps, snap judgements, tunnel vision, stereotyped thinking and cognitive shortcuts that are inherently problematic, intrinsically fallible and logically inadequate, thus invariably leading us astray with flawed assumptions, deductions or conclusions to the point of committing serious fallacies, severe shortcomings, regrettable choices, reprehensible actions, grievous harms or calamitous decisions. Those who disregard or underestimate the roles, risks and impacts of cognitive biases and heuristics do so at their own peril.
Additionally, our cognitive biases can often be reinforced by social media algorithms and filter bubbles, whilst misquotations and misinformation as well as media bias and political bias in conjunction with media manipulation, Internet manipulation, misrepresentation and sensationalism inject additional layers of complexity to what our brains can realistically process. Considering the increasingly fractious nature of political opportunism, bureaucratic manoeuvring and power struggle in numerous regions of the world involving citizens, politicians and the media, the following infographic may serve as a concise visual reminder of how any one of the illustrated eleven cognitive biases can problematically engender, frame, distort, pervert or misrepresent some perspective, narrative, rhetoric, rationale or outcome pertaining to sociocultural or political matters:
The impacts and ramifications of misinformation and disinformation are so serious and widespread in the media landscape and information ecosystem that multiple international or intergovernmental organizations have cooperated via multilateralism to release a “[j]oint statement by WHO, UN, UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNAIDS, ITU, UN Global Pulse, and IFRC” published on 23 September 2020 in the article entitled “Managing the COVID-19 infodemic: Promoting healthy behaviours and mitigating the harm from misinformation and disinformation”, whose content is excerpted as follows:
The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the first pandemic in history in which technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, informed, productive and connected. At the same time, the technology we rely on to keep connected and informed is enabling and amplifying an infodemic that continues to undermine the global response and jeopardizes measures to control the pandemic.
An infodemic is an overabundance of information, both online and offline. It includes deliberate attempts to disseminate wrong information to undermine the public health response and advance alternative agendas of groups or individuals. Mis- and disinformation can be harmful to people’s physical and mental health; increase stigmatization; threaten precious health gains; and lead to poor observance of public health measures, thus reducing their effectiveness and endangering countries’ ability to stop the pandemic.
Misinformation costs lives. Without the appropriate trust and correct information, diagnostic tests go unused, immunization campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not meet their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive.
Furthermore, disinformation is polarizing public debate on topics related to COVID-19; amplifying hate speech; heightening the risk of conflict, violence and human rights violations; and threatening long-terms prospects for advancing democracy, human rights and social cohesion.
Whether deliberate or not, many quotations and much information can be so problematic that they themselves become fallacies proffering untenable or inconclusive arguments, (in addition to) being too tenuous, flawed or fallacious to prove or support certain (view)points, agendas or conclusions. Such quotations and information need not be confined to, associated with or characterized as sophisms, which are clever but unsound arguments used with the intention to deceive or mislead. Indeed, the intention is of secondary importance when quotations and information by which people deceive or mislead themselves (as a result of reasoning flaws, wrong ideas, biased views, faulty judgements or mistaken beliefs) are much more dangerous, alarming, treacherous or undependable than the others, given that they are far more common than sophistries, whether quoted or shared online and offline. As a result, there has been a pandemic of misquotations, misinformation, false statements, misleading data, hasty generalization and glittering generality in the era and context of post-truth politics, fake news, disinformation, sensationalism, alternative facts, false reality, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, yellow journalism, astroturfing, historical negationism and anti-intellectualism, readily created, condoned, manipulated, exploited, disseminated, consumed, believed or touted by not just narrow-minded, prejudiced, ill-informed, illiberal or misguided individuals (ranging from certain politicians, marketers, advertisers, influencers, media personalities, publicity agents, niche bloggers and lifestyle promoters to special interest groups, climate change deniers, conspiracy theorists, cultish believers, pseudoscience peddlers and anti-vaccinators as well as bigots, sexists, racists, xenophobes, hatemongers, disinformers, obscurantists, profiteers, malefactors, trolls, scammers and scoundrels), but also those who support, defend, practise or subscribe to demagoguery, ochlocracy, oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy, kakistocracy and narcissistic leadership, often much to the chagrin or exasperation of many conscientious scientists, trustworthy experts, fair-minded citizens and far-sighted persons.
Historically, people have relied on journalists, librarians, curators, content specialists and other information professionals (also called information specialists) such as archivists, information managers, information systems specialists and records managers (who collect, record, organize, store, preserve, retrieve and disseminate printed or digital information in private, public and academic institutions) to relay facts and truths. Whilst many different matters and issues contribute to miscommunication, the underlying factor is information literacy, defined by the Association of College & Research Libraries as “the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.” The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commences its explanation of information literacy under the banner of “Communication and Information” in bold: The Alexandria Proclamation of 2005 describes information literacy and lifelong learning as the “beacons of the Information Society, illuminating the courses to development, prosperity and freedom. Information literacy empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion in all nations.” That information literacy is crucial for the healthy functioning of a society whose citizens are well-informed by being both proactive and effective in availing themselves of high-quality, accurate information is beyond any reasonable doubt and increasingly indispensable. The outcomes of information literacy are related to and complemented by those of traditional literacy, computer literacy, research skills and critical thinking skills. In particular, since information is distributed by various means and via multiple channels and platforms, it is often beyond the ability of users and the patience of consumers to gauge the credibility of what they are seeing or perceiving, especially if they have not been bolstered by or inoculated with