Finding Resilience in a Flood of Disinformation

Dr. Keith Witt Cognitive, Intrapersonal, Psychology, What is truth?, Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith, Worldviews 51 Comments

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Dr. Keith and Corey explore multiple strategies to help us maintain our mental and emotional well-being as our informational terrains become increasingly disrupted and distorted by a constant deluge of disinformation.

We begin by taking a look at a research briefing by that identifies the three primary cognitive biases that cause people to believe and share misinformation:

1. Repetition and the illusory truth effect

“We are all prone to believing the things we hear repeated. Ever since a 1945 study found that individuals who had previously heard a war rumour were more likely to believe it, psychologists have identified a positive association between repeated exposure to a statement, and its acceptance as truth. This occurs when the audience lacks the information needed to refute a claim – but remarkably, repetition leads to belief even when we do know better.”

2. Fluency and the credibility of information that “looks” right

“We are also prone to believing a story that “looks” right. Whenever we process a new piece of information, whether we believe it or not is a matter of active deliberation, but also a matter of an unconscious, barely perceptible preference our brains have for things which are easy to process. Psychologists refer to this as “processing fluency”. It is a bias we should all be aware of.”

3. Motivated reasoning

“Comprehension of evidence is not necessarily the main factor governing belief in misinformation: sometimes we simply believe things that suit our existing world views. Psychologists call this motivated reasoning. The attitudes we hold already influence our way of accepting new evidence, even when we should and do know otherwise.”

The briefing also presents research findings of who is more vulnerable to believe false data, who is more likely to forward false data, and how false data is challenged (or not) on social media. Some of findings were:

  • Older (60 plus) and less educated people find it harder to discern fact from fiction.
  • Older people find it harder to remember sources of information.
  • Everyone is more distracted on social media and less likely to remember sources.
  • All people tend to share info with higher emotional charge. People share positive material more than negative, but negative stands out.
  • Anything less than a 4 to 1 positive to negative ratio registers more due to human negativity bias.
  • Very few people challenge info they believe is false on social media.
  • Young people more likely to share emotionally charged content they know is wrong.
  • Very few people challenge info they believe is wrong on social media.

Considering just how rampant misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda have become in our broken media landscapes, it is more important than ever for us to come to terms with these cognitive biases in our own lives and better understand how they are constantly shaping and re-shaping our own thoughts and beliefs. This conversation will help you develop the epistemic antibodies you need in order to keep your head above the dark and choppy waters of the social media age.

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Dr. Keith Witt

About Keith Witt

Dr. Keith Witt is a Licensed Psychologist, teacher, and author who has lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA. for over forty years. Dr. Witt is also the founder of The School of Love.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.

Notable Replies

  1. Introspection is the wrong word. There’s two divergent ideas simultaneously. One, that there is “meaning” regardless of if you exist or not. I imagine a Far Side cartoon of two Gods standing next to each other, and our God shows the other His Universe that He created, and the other God says “Yeah, well, that’s very nice - but what does it actually DO?” Does the Universe need a functional purpose to have value, or “meaning” - then on the micro level do you need a functional purpose to have value or “meaning”? No - all this talk about “the meaning of life” is just people wanting some kind of meaning, and one will do just as well as another because the greater meaning - “God’s” value of the Universe is beyond any flimsy meaning our egos want to create in our brief 2,000 years since Jesus lived.

    In this grand scale of things, you or I have no more extrinsic “meaning” than bacteria, unless we create it from within ourselves. Without bacteria, 99.99% of life on Earth would cease to exist, while if Humans became extinct the rest of the life forms would prosper.

    It’s mostly Ego and Fear that causes humans to embrace the self limiting belief that they are the center of some kind of “plan” for the entire Universe. It’s actually call it a delusion.

    We probably disagree what these “fruits” are, and we also probably disagree on the method by which we get fruits. I see winter as a necessary prelude to spring, so there can be no fruit without a bit of frost (or at least a rainy season before the sunny). I see the global “summer” of humanity as pre-ancient times when the great Megaliths were built (evidence of complex and advanced cultures) and the Great World Wars of the past 300 years (one of them lasted 100 years) as the “Winter”. I’d call 2020 Humanity’s Winter Solistice - where it’s still a cultural Winter but at least the sun is starting to draw nearer instead of further away.

    Christianity was an important stage in Humanity, but not the ultimate truth about everything for all time. Democracy and individual rights are also important developments - but not sacred cows, either.

    Actually having an adult daughter who at one time came out as Gay, the Untied States has no appeal to her. I guess it depends on how you define “East” and “West” in that case. She prefers to live pretty far to the East (but slightly West of the actual “East”).
    But the question completely ignores the fact that the West completely destroyed the deep cultures of the East through Colonialism.
    If I had to live 1,000 lifetimes from 15,000 bce to 2,000 ce, I’d definitely prefer the East. Things only got bad in the East since Colonialism, so only the last 500 years was worse in the East. Even if we just took the age of Christianity, life was more pleasant in the East for 3/4 of that period then for another few hundred years it was a tie. Life in the “West” was Hell until very recently. Imagine living in a city where people just toss buckets of piss and shit out their windows. Public sanitation is a very recent development in the West.

    I mean, you probably should check out what you repeat before you repeat something.
    The only difference the research shows is that the Far Left is more self critical while the Far Right is more overconfident.

    You keep saying “every”, but completely ignore the fact that you are not considering “every”, but just a narrow view. Yes, today is the best time to have “stuff” and “comfort”. So yes, if you are an unthinking consumer with no actual desire for anything else besides consumption and comfort, then yes - now is the best of times. If, however, you prefer silk to rayon or honey over artificial sugar - silk and honey have existed for thousands of years and I actually don’t like rayon nor artificial sweeteners. I could list hundreds of other examples, but hopefully you see my point.

    By the way, I just spent a week in a tent and while I did have various electronic devices, I preferred to just listen to the coqui frogs. I feel much more balanced and healthy than using any media device or other invention could ever come close to.
  2. I don’t see how a focus on physical meaning or existence is much more than a basic fear of death. I don’t know how this would rank for most people but for myself I don’t concern myself with it. It doesn’t interest me. I think traditional faith practices developed over centuries first and foremost look to provide mental well being and freedom from anxiety. Both in individual and communal quadrants.
    Personally I like to investigate ideologies and dogmas and practices as a pupil of understanding, but don’t have the temerity to dismiss these traditional practices that work for Billions to substitute my own ideas. Have we each here done the work comparable in depth and longevity to the Buddhist monk, Catholic priest, practicing Pastor, Imam, Rabbi, life long Shaman much less have the combination of intelligence, emotional intelligence, hard work and luck of right work to produce these traditions, prayers, religions, practices that the truly brilliant saint like people that have come before have built for us.

  3. Intentionally posted the Maricopa County response as it’s all part of the cloud of stuff to make sense of. Just as is the Wisconsin info.

    And Ray fully I understand you’re deep into an “alternate” paradigm so not interested, right?

    It’s all part of attempting to at least survey the spectrum of US ideology.

    New Discourse put out a great synopsis that very concisely gave perspective on the 60’s/70’s Marxist political movement losing momentum to the NeoCon movement. Covers:

    • Seemingly gave the Marxists with Friere’s strategies a wake up call to infiltrate the education system and Unis. Downside to NeoCons was strengthening of the Deep State. The new Identity Marxism will require limitless government authority to enforce the Wokeism since its a philosophically groundless every changing arbitratry scheme. It does seem to match with your “everything that exists is about power and domination” world view.
    • NeoCon issues, primarily Deep State development that Corey has pointed out.
    • Conservatism waking up, much Marxists did in reaction to NeoCons.
      -Radical criticism that continually shifts and is intentionally not transmittance down the tiers
    • Educational mission designed to groom Activists

    Lindsay is clearly not a Lefty, but the good news is many on the Right who have spent their lives outside the socio/psycho/political fields are getting trained on what Hegel, Marx, Marcus, Gramsci, Friere, Zizek and the other icons that have lead to this new industry of Theraputic Governance.
    Many are slow learner so bear with us as we get trained up.

    Warning again that Lindsay is decided anti Collectivism, Marxism, Anarchism, Wokeism but still some good info. Enjoy!
  4. Last I checked you were in favor of destroying the Western hierarchies, traditions, that support the homeless, psychologically infirm.

    You paint with a very broad and dark paint brush Christianity. Seemingly societal all the ills are “due to” and all of the goods are “in spite of” Chirstianity, or Capitalism, or or or… lol

    What do we currently provide through both government and NGO (including religious groups) today, and what is the gap you think we need to close?

    And what % of people today are supported through religious organizations?
    The Catholics are easiest to find large scale info on. 1B global adherents (sort of), 440,000 priests, and then how many Brothers and Music Directors and Janitors and Office administrators and school teachers and school administrators and contemplative nuns. How many of these would be equivalent to your Buddhist monks begging on the corners?
    How many people are in their old folks homes, or hospitals, or or or…

    And looking at the not so glam side. Are Meth and Fentynal and Crack a problem in Thailand, Malaysia, Phillipines, India, Myanmar, Russia, China or Pakistan today, right now as we speak? To think no would be naive at best and disingenoius at worst. Our problems are hardly unique only to Capitalism or Christianity or or…

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