How People Consume Conspiracy Theories on Facebook | MIT Technology Review
Science-based news faces an uphill challenge against misinformation. The article says:
[P]eople consume scientific news in the same way as they consume conspiracy news. They both have roughly the same number of likes per comment and comments per share.
That the consumption rates are the same is not good news, by the way. Going further into the article:
Readers of conspiracy news are more likely to both share and like a post than readers of mainstream science news. That appears to reflect a greater desire to spread conspiracy-based information than mainstream information.
One more important quote:
It turns out that readers focused on conspiracy news tend not to engage with mainstream sites but instead devote their energies towards the diffusion of conspiracies. By contrast, readers focused on scientific news are more likely to comment on conspiracy pages. “A possible explanation for such behavior is that the former want to diffuse what is neglected by mainstream thinking, whereas the latter aims at inhibiting the diffusion of conspiracy news,” say Bessi and co.
Read more on Technology Review.
FDA warnings about antidepressants may have led to more suicide attempts
A decade ago the FDA warned, rightly, about the risks associated with adolescents and suicide attempts when taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a class of antidepressants. But, a BMJ article from Harvard researchers, available at the Washington Post, show this warning backfired. The WP says:
“antidepressant prescriptions fell sharply for adolescents age 10 to 17 and for young adults age 18 to 29."
As fewer adolescents took the medications, the rate of suicides also increased by 20%. The takeaway:
Researchers said their findings underscore how even well-intentioned public health warnings can produce unintended consequences, particularly when they involve widespread media attention and sensitive topics such as depression and suicide.
When It Comes To Vaccines, Science Can Run Into A Brick Wall
This was depressing to read:
Unfortunately, giving people corrected information also made them less likely to say they would vaccinate a future child with MMR vaccine. And that effect was concentrated among those parents with the least favorable vaccine attitudes.[NPR]
Why is this? Melanie Zurik on Huffington Post describes why:
When people are confronted with new information that contradicts a current belief it damages their sense of identity and causes them to fight back against it, essentially digging in their heels even if they accept the information as true.
Ran across this today as part of my reading for my environmental health class at UNC’s School of Public Health (ENVR 600) and found it very interesting.
When presented with risk information and hazards (e.g. pesticide residues, living near a nuclear power plant), the general public will often weigh risks differently based on different attributes. The below list is a list of key attributes and how they can affect risk perception for a nontechnical audience.
- Involuntary: Risks voluntarily assumed are ranked differently from those imposed by others.
- Uncontrollable: The inability to personally make a difference decreases a risk’s acceptability.
- Immoral: Pollution is often viewed as a consummate evil. And statements that hazards are “too low to worry about” can engender suspicion.
- Unfamiliar: Generally speaking, more familiar risks are regarded as more acceptable.
- Dreadful: Risks that cause highly feared or dreaded consequences are viewed as more dangerous.
- Uncertain: Scientific uncertainty about the effect, severity, or prevalence of a hazard tends to escalate unease.
- Catastrophic: Large-scale disasters such as a plane crash weigh more seriously in the public’s mind than individual events such as exposures to radon gas in a neighbor’s basement.
- Memorable: Risks embedded in remarkable events have greater impact than risks that arise in less prominent circumstances.
- Unfair: Substantial outrage is a more likely result if people feel they are being wrongfully exposed.
- Untrustworthy: The level of outrage is higher if the source of the risk is not trusted.
Source: Foundation for American Communications and National Sea Grant College Program. Reporting on Risk: A Handbook for Journalists and Citizens; The Annapolis Center, 1995, pp 84–86.
It seems an obvious point now, but in the 1940’s Alton Ochsner, a surgeon in New Orleans, observed that nearly all of his patients he operated on for lung cancer were also smokers (Ochsner 1941). It was a startling conclusion that smoking could be linked to cancer.
On this day 50 years ago, the Surgeon General released their report that definitely linked smoking to cancer. Reports say it was one of the biggest news stories of 1964. Click the link below to view CDC’s page on this milestone.
Ochsner A, DeBakey M: Carcinoma of the lung. Arch Surg 42:209-258, 1941.