This is Circulating Ideas. I’m Troy Swanson sitting in for Steve Thomas. My guest today is Dr. Laura Lauzen-Collins, faculty member of psychology at Marin Valley Community College. Laura holds an MS and PhD in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests revolve around perceptions of control and more generally in social and health psychology. Circulating Ideas is brought to you with support from the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science and from listeners like you.
Laura, welcome to the show and thanks for talking to me.
Thanks for having me, Troy.
I wanted to have you on as part of this ongoing conversation around fake news and libraries. You and I have had many discussions about psychology factors involved with interpreting and judging information that the rise of fake news is nothing new in the world of psychology and a psychologist, so I thought it would work. For many years, psychologists have studied how we know things and how the brain tries to build a world view, so I’m excited to have you on, thanks.
Yeah, I’m excited to talk.
Maybe just to get started, we talk about the big picture, and maybe describe how psychology or psychological research views the ways that the brain processes information.
Well, when we think about how psychology understands how we process information, we’ve got to start thinking about two general pathways through which we process and perceive the world. We’ve got a central pathway, and we’ve got a peripheral pathway. Now that central pathway, that’s our logical thinking, our rational brain, when we really deeply analyze a situation, we’re really weighing pros and cons, that’s our central processing. Now, a lot of us like to think of ourselves as really rational beings that are constantly, logically considering the pros and cons of all the decisions that we make, but if we were that kind of creature, if we were that kind of species, we would constantly be paralyzed by our choices, by our decisions, by our thought processes. It would take too many resources to try to logically process everything out. I mean, if you can imagine yourself in a cereal aisle, for instance, there are hundreds of different kinds of cereal, and trying to rationally consider every single category of information for each cereal, I, you’d stand there for hours, you wouldn’t be able to do it, our brains aren’t capable of processing that much information at once. And that’s just one small, tiny decision that we make out of a whole day. So, turns out that even though we think of ourselves as rational processors, we’re really more irrational, emotionally processors, so we use that peripheral path, that’s the second path that I had referenced.
The peripheral path is based more on our emotions and our opinions, our sense of self, our sense of identity, and our preferences, it’s easy, it’s automatic, we don’t have to think deeply about it, it’s intuitive. Again, when we’re thinking about how the brain processes information we have to readily acknowledge first of all that we’ve got these two pathways, they function very differently, and that in spite of the fact that we feel like we’re rational, logical creatures, most of the time we’re making our decisions based on our emotions, based on assumptions and based on more automatic response as opposed to rational reasoned response.
Can you talk a little more about how our emotions and feelings impact our perceptions?
When we experience a strong emotion, that strong emotion tends to take over our thinking. The times when we are most rational and logical tend to be times when we are not overcome with emotion. When we are feeling overcome with emotion, especially when it’s a negative emotion, there’s a part of the brain called the amygdala, that activates, and that amygdala really demands that the rest of the brain listens to it, and it’s triggering a fear or an anger response, and it makes us think less rationally about the decisions that we’re confronted with. It’s a very, very difficult to use any kind of central processing when we are overly emotional, when we’re, when we are sitting in our emotions, it is very difficult to access fully the power of our frontal lobes, and the frontal lobes are really what are more connected with that central processing.
It’s interesting from the librarian perspective cause, you know, we often think about the interactions that we have with either in a public library with our patrons, or students in colleges, or, you know, high schools, K-12 that we’re in this kind of rational kind of mode. But I think that emotion does activate if they walk up to at the desk, sometimes that there’s discomfort, where students or patrons aren’t always rational to start with, and then once you get in that situation, it changes. But also that, you know, I wonder how aware we are as librarians of those two kinds of processing and that when people ask, especially deeper research questions, you know, what part of the brains are being activated and we live in this kind of world where I think we want to pretend it’s always rational, but it’s not, right, and then, and I think that’s kind of part of this conversation, you know, like we, we want to think that we’re these processing computers, where the right answer always comes out, and it’s not that simple.
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think that many of us walk around thinking that we are rational processors, but there’s just a lot of research to show that we, we truly are not, and even the people that we think of as most rational are not. There was this study that came out in 2011, out of Israel, and I think it really illustrates quite well what we’re talking about. What they did is they looked at judges who determine whether or not to give probation to inmates. They were interested to see how rational the judges were, how much of the evidence they considered, the information in front of them versus making more of, maybe an emotional or a biased decision. And the one thing that they looked at was food. Which I think is interesting. So, when we think about the central peripheral processes, one of the things that we’ve got to consider is in order to centrally process, in order to think logically, we need a lot of resources. So, we need sleep, we need to not be stressed about other things, we need good blood sugar, we need to not be hungry, we need to not be too cold or too hot.
So there are all these other stresses and pressures that can leave, that can basically take out our resources, you know, remove our resources, so that we’re not able to think as centrally. And that’s what they were looking at with this particular study. So, they looked at these judge’s decisions on probation, right before they had their lunch break and right after they had their lunch break. And, they were looking at not only the one right before and right after, but also then varying amount of times before and after. And what they found was that if you were unlucky enough to meet a judge right before his lunch break, so these would the individuals, the last case that they see right before the lunch breaks, so these judges are hungry, and they’ve already thought a lot about other cases, they’re drained. What they found is that those poor inmates had about, it was close to a zero percent chance of getting probation.
Whereas if you look at the inmates who came before the judge right after lunch, immediately after lunch.
The judges are sleepy, they’re.
Well, the judges right after lunch, so let’s think about that. They’ve had a break, okay, they’ve eaten, their blood sugar’s more stable, they’re not thinking about food any more, they’re more refreshed, and what they found is that those judges gave probation at about a 65% rate.
So, when they’re, then they’re depleted of resources, we’re talking about 0% and when their resources have been replenished 65% chance.
And it was actually a linear relationship between time since eating and the chances of getting probation. So we, we think about judges, you know, librarians, we think of as very rational, we think of physicians as very rational, we think of judges as very rational, in fact, all of us, we’re all human, and being human means that most of the time when we’re making decisions, we’re being guided by our intuition and by our emotion.
Yeah. To shift back toward the fake news. I have to ask you to talk about confirmation bias cause I think that’s a core of this, of psychology around what we see so often, so.
Again, going back to that central and peripheral processing, most of the time we spend in peripheral processing, we are responding to the world and we’re perceiving the world through a number of biases, through a number of cognitive shortcuts, thinking shortcuts, which are also called heuristics.
There are a lot of these that have been identified. One of them is confirmation bias. Now, confirmation bias is something that has been talked about for hundreds of years. You can see philosophers talking about confirmation bias during the Enlightenment period. It is something that we more formally study today in social psychology, and confirmation bias is about not wanting our categories to change, not wanting our understanding of the world to shift, and this makes complete and total sense when you think about how information and our understanding of the world is organized within the brain. Okay, so we all have these different beliefs that we have learned through media, through our own experience, through our friends and our parents, and we fight to maintain these beliefs. So, if we look at how it is set up in the brain, we could take one example of a belief. Let’s say the belief that all librarians are quiet. Okay, so that belief is tied to television shows that we’ve seen where librarians have been quiet and meek with glasses and, you know, sitting there not wanting anybody to speak with them.
Sensible shoes and a bun, cardigans, yep we know, we know, yep.
Yes, exactly. Movies where we’ve seen that we could think about experiences, maybe you’ve met a librarian that fits that stereotype, maybe there have been books or web pages that you’ve seen that have portrayed that stereotype. So when we look at that belief, it is embedded within a network. To change that belief, is going to require a change that is going to have a ripple effect throughout these other experiences. That’s hard. Our brain doesn’t like hard. It wants to be easy, cause again we only have so many resources that we can devote to our day-to-day living. We don’t want to have to constantly be questioning our experiences, what we know about the world, our world view, it makes the world more stressful and it makes interacting with the world more difficult, takes up too much processing capacity. So, when we’re confronted with an experience that is not consistent with a belief, there are a couple of different things that we do. So, research has shown that one of the things that we do is we forget that we even encountered a librarian, for example, who’s really outgoing. So, let’s say you, you know, a student walks into their college library, they encounter a librarians who’s really friendly, really outgoing, really charismatic, if you were to ask them the next week about their ideas about librarians, that person didn’t fit into their idea, they might not remember that encounter, or it wasn’t categorized as a librarian. You know, that was just that person at the library who was helping me. And then that way we don’t have to alter that original thought or category or belief, it’s now somewhere else, you know, random staff members who are in the library as opposed to quote a librarian.
So that’s one of the things that we do, we just don’t remember. Sometimes we switch our memory, again you encounter a librarian who’s really outgoing, and really charismatic, you might switch that maybe three months later you ask the student about that interaction, that student might remember that person as a faculty member, as opposed to a librarian, because it fits their stereotype of say a faculty member, maybe it was an arts faculty member, or, you know, drama faculty member who, it’s consistent with their stereotype. So, we can actually, and there’s been a lot of research on this, we can actually change our memory to make it more consistent with the original category. So, we can ignore information, we can change the information, and, on occasion, when we can’t get away from that new experience, and we can’t recategorize it, we can’t forget it because we keep getting confronted with it, even then we tend to not change a category. We’ll make a little exception.
So, we can keep our general category, and then we make a little exception of well there are a few librarians who.
Who aren’t crazy.
Yeah, who are outgoing and charismatic, but, you know, the most, most of them are still quiet and meek.
I think about this all the time in terms of the, the beliefs that we hold, and how ingrained they are, and how difficult they are because of confirmation bias to shift and being in a college, like, students that are bombarded all the time with new ideas and, and new experiences and thinking about things they haven’t explored before, but it’s always difficult to change those really ingrained ideas. So how, how early do those beliefs form? And, you know, especially I’m thinking like the core ones, you know like the, what you do, who should work for what, and where money comes from, and what’s the role of men, what’s the role of women, what does it mean to have identity, I mean all of those, the really deep kinds of things, right? And, we care a lot about what people think about librarians, of course, but even something more impactful than librarians are quiet, but like, who am I? How do I conduct myself? I mean those get set pretty early in life, right?
They absolutely do. So, many of those have their seeds in the mind of the infant. There’s been some really phenomenal research out there about development in infancy and early childhood, that shows that many of these schemas, we can call them schemas, these categories belief, categories of experience, many of these schemas start to develop in the infancy.
Interesting. And so by the time you get four, five, six, seven, eight year olds.
They’ve got a wide breadth of experience. Not only just from their parents, but they’ve also been exposed to a lot of media.
Religion, like all the institutions.
So by the time they’re 18, walking in our door.
They’ve got a well-established world view and it will be very difficult to change some aspects of it. Now, not everything.
Right, cause we see it all the time, so I mean people absolutely change.
Absolutely, they do. The problem comes when it tends to be tied to your identity and how you see yourself. There are some students who are going to come in and part of their identity, for example, might be their political beliefs. When that happens, you know, bringing it back to fake news for instance, those students are going to have an even more difficult time carefully and rationally considering the other side of a debate, a political debate, than the students who really don’t care about politics and they don’t see it as part of their identity. There was a study done in 2016 by Kaplan and what they were looking at were what parts of the brain are activated when we’re confronted with information that’s inconsistent with information that we already have.
What he did is, he brought participants in, they were read information that contradicted a previously held belief. So, one of those was who invented the light bulb. So, they read a paragraph, or a couple of paragraphs about, it wasn’t really Edison who invented the light bulb, new research has uncovered the fact that it was this other inventor. So, they were also looking at what their brains were doing during this time. And students fairly readily accepted the new information that they were given, because who invented the light bulb is not tied to their identity. It’s, it’s not tied to how they see the world, it’s not tied to who they are, so it wasn’t that difficult to believe and to change this view, this idea that they had had for a really long time. However, when they read a paragraph about changing military spending, when you’ve got already deeply held political beliefs and those are connected to your sense of identity, when you read information that’s contradictory to how you already feel, and again, that’s tied to your identity. What they found is that there were parts of the brain that were lighting up, that were associated with emotion, and how we see ourselves. And it made these participants feel defensive and attacked, and it made them more entrenched in their original beliefs, even though they were being given information about the opposing view and about why the opposing view was a better idea, that made them more entrenched in their original ideas. And, I think when we look at the brain, we can see why.
We’ve got the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala, that’s really lighting up, and we’ve also got the insular cortex, that’s also lighting up, and again, those two things combined suggest that when information is tied to identity and emotion, we feel threatened, we’re not necessarily going to rationally think about what that source has said. Instead, we dig in and we protect ourselves.
I think one of the challenges that we face as a library community, and I think as colleges too, is that there’s, at the heart of what we do, and we can debate how strong this is, there’s still this kind of idea from the enlightenment, where if we all just had the same information, we would all make the same decisions, right? But, and it’s hard, I mean it’s hard for me to get away from that, like I want to give you information because I really do think that libraries giving the, the people they serve information makes the world better, so that we can debate these ideas, and hopefully find some level of truth, whatever we define as truth, but this is a great point where giving information when it touches that personal side actually can have the inverse effect, right?
Locks them down. Again, against this rationality, this rational view of the brain is the computer processing data that it’s more complicated than that and I think that’s a difficulty that, that we face, that runs counter at this underlying, I think, philosophy that’s hidden in our colleges, in our libraries, in these institutions. Even in democracy, right, we’re going to have a debate and we’re going to come to the right answer and we’re going to vote on legislation that matches that answer, so. That, I maybe just took that a little philosophical real fast.
Yeah, no I, I mean I think that you’re absolutely right and it’s, it, it absolutely is much broader than what’s going on in a library, it impacts a library, it impacts a college, but it, it impacts broader life as well, and many of us have experienced this, just in daily life and interacting with our friends, our significant others, we assume that the reality that we see is the same reality everybody else sees. And, what social psychology is that is not correct, that’s not accurate. So, the world that we experience and perceive is very heavily influenced by the belief system, and the world view that we come into this situation with. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of having an argument with a, with say your significant other, and you say, you know I know that this is what I said yesterday, I know that this what happened, you were there, we were both there, we both saw the same thing, and your significant other is saying absolutely not, that’s not what happened, you know, you did this, or you did that, and you both were at the exact same experience, but you came out if it with, with two different memories of that experience. And that is often tied to our schemas, our expectations about what’s going to happen in that experience, and the emotions and how it’s tied to identity. So, even though we, we feel like we’re all experiencing the exact same thing, it’s quite different.
To pull us toward the ah, back to the fake news, and especially thinking about confirmation bias, then, and I think we’ve been dancing around a little bit, but can we get into then, you know, how does fake news take advantage of the processing of our brain?
Sure. Well, with confirmation bias we are seeking to confirm what we already believe. So, I think many people have this experience when they’re scrolling through the news, they’re going to focus on the stories that are consistent with their beliefs. So if they see a story headline that seems consistent, that seems inconsistent with their deeply rooted beliefs, they’re going to skip it, they’re not going to read it. They are going to expose themselves to sites and news organizations, we have so many news organizations now, we don’t just have, you know, the local paper, and then the New York Times and the Washington Post, we’ve got hundreds, thousands of different publications all around the country and the world. Many of them are biased in one direction or another, so we are going to focus on the stories that are consistent first of all. We’re going to focus on the stories that are consistent. So, if you’re looking at a social media feed, and you see a news story and it is consistent with your already deeply held belief, you’re more likely to click on it because you want to see that you’re right. You want more information that’s consistent with how you already see the world, and in addition, when you read that article, you’re less likely to question it, you’re less likely to look up well was this a biased newspaper? Or, you know, news organization, who wrote this article, where were they getting their facts?
We don’t think about all those things because why should we? We already know that they were right. So, fake news is going to take advantage of that by tailoring their news stories and their headlines to one end of the political spectrum or the other.
So, we talked a little bit about how confirmation bias connects to fake news, but can you talk about some of the other heuristics that, that would impact.
Sure, so there are a number of other heuristics that can impact fake news and how fake news impacts us. So, one of them is the availability heuristic. So, the availability heuristic is the more easily or readily something comes to mind, the more likely you are to believe it. So, when we make a fake, when someone else makes a fake news story that is particularly vivid and detailed and really triggers fear in us, it’s going to be more easy for us, it’s going to be easier for us to remember it. The more we remember it, the more we see it as being true. The more we see it as being accurate. So, let me just give you a quick example here. Terrorism is a common fear in the United States, the idea that there could be a terrorist attack any time, anywhere, anybody can be a victim of a terrorist attack, it’s something that gets stoked a lot by the media as well. Well, we have about a 1 in 45,000 chance of being a victim of terrorism versus a 1 in 3,000 chance of choking on food, of dying from choking on food. We don’t think about choking on food, we don’t picture it, it’s not a fear that most people have, but it would be many, many times over much more likely that we’d die from choking on food than we’d die from a terrorism attack. And even more likely that we fall down stairs and die from a fall on stairs, again that’s not something that we think about, so we think about it as less likely. We think about it as less threatening, so how does that relate to fake news? Well, again, the more vivid and frightening they can make it, the more they can make it stick by adding in these details that are going to trigger our, our threat system in our brain, which is going to trigger our amygdala, the more likely we are to believe it’s real, the more likely we are to believe that it’s true news instead of fake news.
And, and I think, you know, one of the goals of, and there’s a range of news sites out there, but the ones that are really putting out just made up stuff, like they want you to click, right? So they’re, they’re competing for your attention in the midst of pages of, you know, search results, Google news stories, Facebook feed, Twitter feed, whatever, so the more that they can shock you and grab your attention, the more likely you are to open them up, and you see the advertisements and yeah.
Yeah, and then the more likely you are to open, the more likely you are to believe as well.
And share it with others, and, yeah.
Yeah, and, and see it as a real threat when in fact it’s not. And that’s also then related we could piggyback off of that and talk about another heuristic, the anchoring and adjustment heuristic. With that one, what we do is we create an anchor with the initial information that we’re given, and then we adjust from there.
Now the interesting thing about anchoring and adjustment, so we, we’re given this initial news story, okay, and it’s, it’s really threatening and it’s really over-the-top, that creates an anchor for us that, that sits there and impacts our future understanding and opinion about this topic, and again sits there as an anchor and the, the kicker here is even when we are told it’s false, even, you know, we get a fake news story, let’s say we, we read it, we believe it, we’re like oh my gosh I can’t believe this is happening, we send it to our friends, and maybe one of our friends kicks back a Snopes page on this fake news article and they say, hey, you know, check your sources before you forward this. Even when we know that it’s fake, it still impacts our opinion about that topic. It still is going to provide, it’s going to act as an anchor for our, for our opinion about that topic. Which is kind of scary.
If you were a political organization, and you were trying to sway public opinion, an effective technique might be to throw out some fake news because what that’s going to do is it, it will shape public opinion, even if it comes out that it’s fake, even if other news organizations point out hey this isn’t real, it, the impact has already been made.
It’s almost like if you wanted to run for president, you could just keep saying that the current president wasn’t born here, you just keep saying it, you keep saying it.
And keep saying it.
Yeah. And I, you know, even when we know it’s not true, it still shapes our opinion. Another heuristic that impacts fake news is the conjunction fallacy and this is really well linked to a lot of what’s going on with fake news today, especially with the, the broader conspiracy theories that they get linked to. So, if you think about Pizzagate, for instance. What conjunction fallacy says is that we believe stories with more details than we do stories with less details. So, if we just get a general piece of information, let’s say a senator cheated, and that’s all we get, we are much less likely to believe that, by the way we’re also less likely to remember it, than if it’s a story filled with details. So, when we put in all sorts of details about where the senator was and what he was doing and who he was with and who else was involved and, especially when they’re juicy details, we make the judgment that it’s more likely to be accurate. When, in fact, it turns out that the more details they have, doesn’t really have anything to do with accuracy, and the fake news uses that by giving us not just general stories, but very specific kind of if you look at Pizzagate there were very specific details about what was going on and that’s also again a part of a lot of conspiracy theories as well, very specific details pull people in. It becomes a story, it becomes more believable, it’s something people can imagine happening when you’re given details to fill the whole thing in.
It’s probably hard to throw the calendar right? If he, if you can’t prove a negative, and you can’t use heavy details on a negative, so it’s like that hangs on right?
Absolutely, absolutely. So, even when there is information and evidence out there to, to show that it’s not accurate, that initial story sticks with you.
Yeah. One other concept that impacts our understanding and our vulnerability to fake news would be informational social influence. So, informational social influence is something that drives our conformity to other people and our acceptance of what they are telling us and, and what to do in a certain situation, or what to believe. And this tends to be triggered by three different things. The first thing is crisis. So, is there a crisis that’s going on in the moment, are we being informed about a crisis. The second one is ambiguity, do we know for sure what’s the cause of the crisis, what’s contributing to it, how to resolve it, things feel uncertain, that’s that ambiguity aspect. And then the last thing is when there’s an expert present, who’s telling us what to do or what caused it. So, those three things together crisis, ambiguity and expert all three of those things tend to trigger this drive towards what’s called informational social influence. Which again is a, it’s a kind of conformity to what others are telling us, or what others are maybe directing us to do. And those three things can be taken advantage of by people who want to try to direct our behavior without us really thinking about what we’re doing because when those three things all come together, we tend to shut down our central processing. Again, that amygdala gets triggered and we tend to not think rationally about what we should do, or what’s the right thing to do, or what makes sense. We just go with what other people are doing, because we figure that they know what’s best, and we don’t. And so that, that connects to fake news because a lot of fake news has those three things in it. It’s got crisis, ambiguity and experts. And, when those three things connect, we tend to immediately go into peripheral emotional processing as opposed to that rational reasoned processing.
Well then, it’s interesting because even in terms, especially I think cable news, which is on the verge to me of not even being journalism at some points, right, that the, the fight for attention, there’s always a desire I think to have some sort of crisis that, and, you know, theme song and logo, just to grab our attention, so it kind of plays right into that, right?
Yeah, unfortunately, all of that takes advantage of how our brain is wired.
Yeah, interesting. Well, so let’s transition a little bit, because I don’t want to focus too much on, you know, leave us all depressed, that we, is there a solution, I mean can we account for these biases, or are we always destined to fall victim to fake news?
You know, I think that the number one key is awareness. I think most of us, again, we walk around with this false idea that we are completely rational, logical creatures all the time, and we’re not aware of our biases, and we are not aware of these heuristics that drive a lot of our decisions and our behavior. So, I think the first step is acknowledging we are actually emotional processors and we are subject to these biases and heuristics, and being able to identify them in our own behavior can also be really powerful. When many people hear these for the first time, they might think, oh well I know this friend and that friend, they all do those things but I don’t. So you’ve got to sit down and really take a look at your past behavior, maybe a conversation with friends about some of these concepts and these ideas because awareness is really the first step to being able to combat these heuristics, the effect of these heuristics in your life.
Another thing to be aware of is that our memory is biased, and our memory is driven by confirmation bias. So, when we’re interacting with other people, and when they remember something different, differently than how we remember it, to view your own memory not as a video tape, but rather as something that may very well be biased and altered and not completely based in what was actually happening at the moment. I think that, that can lead you to have more, better communication with the people around you, maybe more understanding of where other people are coming from, maybe more empathy for those around you as well. If instead we ignore confirmation bias and we say oh this is something that happens to others not me, I’m always right, my memory is 100% accurate, it makes us more rigid and not as flexible, not as understanding, more closed, understanding that we are all subject to these biases I think makes us more open to considering others perspectives and others opinions. I, I think that that’s important.
And then when you are open to that, I mean, is there value then in reaching out to that other side? I mean, understanding those opinions and educating yourself? I know earlier we talked about how hearing opposite opinions may actually help make your views more concrete, but it doesn’t seem logical to me to not want to understand.
So, so yeah, there are a couple of things about that. First of all, the research that has been done with that effect we were talking about earlier, that we didn’t name it, it’s called the backfire effect. The research that’s been done with that has mostly been done with people reading the information. So, when instead of people reading the information, when they are confronted in a comfortable setting with someone whose friendly and whose talking about issues with them, they tend to not be as defensive as they are when they’re reading it on a sheet of paper. Or, when they’re getting it from, say a television program. So, that, that is one piece there.
The other thing is that when they ask people in these studies to be a fair and impartial judge, they say I’d like you to set your bias aside for a moment, and truly be a fair and impartial judge of the evidence in front of you. The backfire effect disappears. So, we can ask people to be more rational, to rationally consider.
Can you ask yourself?
Yes, absolutely you can ask yourself. It is important to remember that’s not always going to happen, it’s not always going to work and we have to consider are you well fed? Did you get enough sleep? Are you stressed about other things? Are there other distractions going on in the environment? When we can take care of those things and we give ourselves more resources, more cognitive resources through handling those things first, we allow ourselves to be able to access that central processing more easily and we can more carefully consider the information in front of us instead of just going on autopilot. The, the thing about autopilot is that most people aren’t aware of it when it’s on. It’s, it’s running in the background, so making people aware that they are on autopilot is really the first step to being able to alter it, or take control back through central processing.
I think the other point here that’s important to remember about confronting and communicating with the other side is that we as a society, we’ve gotten more and more polarized. Each side tends to demonize the other. So not only are they wrong, but they’re bad, they’re bad people. There’s something wrong with them. Not just with their opinions, but with them! I think that if you are able to communicate in a more comfortable face-to-face environment, not talking about text, I’m not talking about Facebook, but I’m talking about a face-to-face more comfortable environment, that can also go a ways to getting rid of some of that demonization. So, you might not change your mind, and that’s, I don’t that that’s necessarily the goal for either side to just completely give up their world view and change their mind and now they have another world view. But rather to understand the other person, to emphasize with the other person’s concerns and perspective, and it also broadens, it broadens the information that you have, it might broaden your world views, so although you don’t change it, you now have maybe two or three other things that you can add into your understanding of how the world works, or how other people operate. And that does require a more personal empathetic connection, response to someone who has an opinion that’s different from you. So, one way that you could get in touch with someone has very different views from you in that face-to-face setting that I was talking about, is to use this app, relatively new app called “Hi from the other side”. When you sign into the app, and you describe which side, you know we’re talking about political spectrum here because things have gotten again so polarized, you talk about which side you’re on, you say a little bit about yourself and where you’re from. Within a few days typically, they’ll connect you with someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum that you can connect with and the idea is that you then set up a coffee. So that you can take some time to really hear what the other side, so to speak, is saying. And again, it’s not so much to change their mind, or to have your mind changed, but to stop demonizing the other side, and to also understand where there are connections, where they might be things where that you agree with one another on. To try to make the political discourse less polarizing, more about what do we have in common as opposed to what, what is there to fight about.
Yeah. Well thank you, I definitely will have to check that out. Are there any final thoughts that you’d like on, especially on fake news of libraries, that we can close with?
Well, as a librarian I think it’s important to remember when your students are coming in and they’re asking you questions about different topics, you’ve got to consider what kind of state are they in before thinking about how you’re going to interact with them. If the student is really stressed out, and there’s a lot of activity going on in the library, it’s going to be much more difficult to have say a reasoned conversation about a topic that might be an emotional topic, or a topic tied to identity. So, to just be aware of that. Those emotions again are really going to drive the ability to process, or not. When you’re having a conversation with someone who holds a very different view from you, it’s important to be very careful about how you word things. So, you don’t want to use the word ‘never’, you don’t want to use the word ‘always’, you don’t really want to talk about what their side is doing wrong necessarily, but rather acknowledge what the, what the student has said. So, repeat it back in a, in a slightly different form so that they know that they’ve been heard. And then, when you talk about the other side, to then focus more on the positives of that other side as opposed to attacking their side, and, you know, bringing this all back to fake news, remember that if students come in with fake news, it would be important to not just say you are wrong, this story is fake news. But to show them some of the resources online that they can use to check that news story for themselves. So that they have the tools moving forward, and you could discuss with them what types of groups are putting these news stories out, and what they’re getting from it. You know, you could even touch a little bit on confirmation bias and say you know hey we all do this, we all are looking for information that confirms our already held beliefs, those guys, you know, the fake news guys are trying to take advantage of that, here’s how you can arm yourself, equip yourself properly to not be taken advantage of so easily.
Great. Well with that, if listeners wanted to be in touch with you, what’s the easiest way for them to do that?
Email and it’s a long one. So, it’s my last name lauzen-collins, L-A-U-Z-E-N hyphen C-O-L-L-I-N-S[at]moainevalley[dot]edu.
Okay, great. Well thank you for your time, it’s been a great conversation.
Sure, it’s been great, thanks.
Circulating Ideas is produced by Steve Thomas in the suburbs of Atlanta with support from the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science and from listeners like you. Find out how you can help support the show by going to Circulatingideas.com and clicking on ‘Support’. Help others find the show by subscribing, rating and reviewing the show at Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Overcast, or your podcast app of choice. Follow the show on Twitter @circideas, or the show’s Facebook page. Our music is by Pamela Klicka. Thank you for listening, and keep circulating your ideas.