One Quick Example of Why Better Critical Thinking Isn’t an Adequate Solution to Information Overload

This twitter thread will demonstrate what I mean:

Please join me, if you will, on a quick jaunt through the insanity of trying to track down the data behind a poorly sourced article in the news.— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 25, 2019

This article, published during the weekend, caught my eye: it claims that a 2017 study found that 70% of Americans think women should change their names when they marry, and half say it should be required pic.twitter.com/pWi9ZquEhw— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 25, 2019

Here’s the study they link to:https://t.co/9t5iXY3mNz

But the stat isn’t from that 2017 study! Instead, it dates back to a paper presented in 2009. Here’s USA Today from that year: https://t.co/AVBNwuJCfo

And the university press release: https://t.co/eRzZjzOhWx— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 25, 2019

But, although it’s CITED in that paper, which is here (https://t.co/tBwDxo6s8T), it’s not from that paper either.

It’s from a survey taken in 2006. https://t.co/n8929NAMSX— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 25, 2019

Here’s the actual table: pic.twitter.com/WksRLkjzJL— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 25, 2019

Anyways, these are also both older surveys, but it’s worth noting that if you give people the option to say that women should do whatever they want, a plurality will take it. pic.twitter.com/Lkf9smNaXp— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 25, 2019

The moral is, 93.1% of the time, it pays to beware of random, out-of-context statistics.— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) February 25, 2019

Here’s a key point, and I suspect most would agree with me–namely, most people aren’t going to scrutinize the statistics and research in articles like this–including superb critical thinkers. All of us come across a lot of information that we don’t feel is worthy (for whatever reason) this level of scrutiny. As a result, many, including very intelligent people, end up accepting information like this. Now, if the source of information is suspect or not reputable, then many may dismiss the information or take it with a grain of salt. If the source of information is reptuable, then many people may tend to accept the information, believing it is accurate.

I should also say that with regard to this thread, I never really checked to see if her claims are accurate–which also illustrates my previous point. In my defense, I think the accuracy of her analysis isn’t as important, because I don’t doubt that many examples of the above exist, and the accuracy of his analysis doesn’t really undermine my claim that people will accept information, even without careful scrutiny, because there is too much information to process.

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