Expert on Logic and Philosophy of Science Visits Cazenovia to Explain the Misinformation Age

29 May

By Katlynn Vredenburgh


On May 3, 2019 Cailin O’Connor, co-author of “The Misinformation Age,” gave a talk at Catherine Cummings Theatre in Cazenovia, New York to participate in the Cazenovia Forum Lecture Series.  The lecture, entitled “The Misinformation Age” covered some of the topics discussed in her book that attempt to explain the “fake news” and “alternative facts” phenomena that we see surrounding issues ranging from vaccinations to foreign influences upon U.S. elections.

As an Associate Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, a member of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Science at the University of California, Irvine, and an applied mathematician O’Connor is dedicated to promoting the spread of factual information within the scientific community and investigating the persistence of false scientific beliefs.  In both the lecture and in her book, O’Connor asserted that people need to know the strategies and social factors that cause the production of false beliefs and “fake news” so they can better identify it and fight against its spread.

During the lecture, O’Connor gave a few historical examples of false beliefs, and how even the most outrageous claims, such as the existence of a vegetable lamb that grew sheep as fruit, can gain traction and credence within communities.  O’Connor also discussed some of the factors that can lead to the development of false beliefs, including social psychological concepts like the conformity bias and strategies that manipulate the results of true scientific findings, including selective sharing and industrial selection.  The rest of the lecture then consisted of O’Connor answering questions from members of the audience regarding topics including procedures websites like Facebook or Twitter could use to lessen the amount of false information spread by their users and the challenge of identifying “fake news” as the methods of its distribution frequently changes.

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