Overwhelmed by your news feed? Use tools from science to evaluate what’s true and what’s fake, suggests researcher Emma Frans.
This post is part of TED’s “How to Be a Better Human” series, each of which contains a piece of helpful advice from someone in the TED community. To see all the posts, go here.
In our daily reading, we encounter all kinds of claims. Depending on the news story and the week, Chinese imports, coffee, large-cap stocks, snacking, and eggs should be embraced — or they should be avoided altogether. What’s a person to do when bombarded with confusing, contradictory information?
Try thinking like a scientist, says Emma Frans, who’s an epidemiology and psychiatry researcher at Oxford University in the UK and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
“In present times, our risk of being fooled is especially high,” she says. There are two main factors at play: “Disinformation spreads like wildfire in social media,” she adds, “and when it comes to news reporting, sometimes it is more important for journalists to be fast than accurate.”
Which is why it’s useful to know how to evaluate news the way a scientist does. Scientists labor under a burden of proof. They must conduct experiments and collect data under controlled conditions to arrive at their conclusions — and be ready to defend their findings with facts, not emotions.
“We all have gut feelings and biases that sometimes cloud our judgment,” says Frans. But scientific thinking offers us tools for “evaluating information in a rational way.”
Try these 6 tips to read the news like a scientist: Read the article.