How Facebook, fake news and friends are warping your memory

Mar 8, 2017

By Laura Spinney

Strange things have been happening in the news lately. Already this year, members of US President Donald Trump’s administration have alluded to a ‘Bowling Green massacre’ and terror attacks in Sweden and Atlanta, Georgia, that never happened.

The misinformation was swiftly corrected, but some historical myths have proved difficult to erase. Since at least 2010, for example, an online community has shared the apparently unshakeable recollection of Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s, despite the fact that he lived until 2013, leaving prison in 1990 and going on to serve as South Africa’s first black president.

Memory is notoriously fallible, but some experts worry that a new phenomenon is emerging. “Memories are shared among groups in novel ways through sites such as Facebook and Instagram, blurring the line between individual and collective memories,” says psychologist Daniel Schacter, who studies memory at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The development of Internet-based misinformation, such as recently well-publicized fake news sites, has the potential to distort individual and collective memories in disturbing ways.”

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3 comments on “How Facebook, fake news and friends are warping your memory

  • @OP – “The development of Internet-based misinformation, such as recently well-publicized fake news sites, has the potential to distort individual and collective memories in disturbing ways.”

    On RDFS regular posters are already familiar with the output of historical fake information sites, such as YECs, (un)Intelligent design, anti Vaxers, Carbon industry stooges, AGW deniers etc. – Not to mention “Bible Colleges” and assorted religious texts!!!



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  • I don’t think this article is saying much more than that stupid, gullible, non critical thinking people can be easily influenced and have little ability to distinguish fact from fiction. Not any great surprise to me.

    Dumb people can be led to believe just about anything as religion has proved for thousands of years. Smart people are less easily swayed as all research shows and exponents of propaganda techniques such as the Nazis, and now Trump and his surrogates, have always known that the intellectual classes are not much moved by false rhetoric and false promises. As Goebbels said..

    “There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyways always yield to the stronger, and this will always be ‘the man in the street.’ Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect.”



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