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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.3 > Surfing for Truth in All the Right Places

Surfing for Truth in All the Right Places

An Empirical Test of the Backfire Effect and How the Internet Can Reduce Anti-vaccination Attitudes

The Internet is often accused of being a platform for the proliferation of false news and irrational beliefs. The accusation is not without merit.1 Attitudes of mistrust towards vaccines, for example, could be enhanced by the power of the global network. 2More specifically, Internet users are expected to fall into a series of traps that their brains set for them and that the characteristics of the Internet intensify. First, the infamous confirmation bias could push users to seek information in accordance with their previous ideas, by selecting requests and choosing to look at sites that meet their preconceptions.3

The confirmation bias can be further reinforced by the fact that we live (on social networks especially) in echo chambers,4 surrounded by people who share our beliefs, even the strangest ones, and seeing only ad hoc sites selected for us by search engines.

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About Skeptic

PINKER ON POST-TRUTH & REASON Steven Pinker on “Why We Are Not Living in a Post-Truth Era: An (Unnecessary) Defense of Reason and a (Necessary) Defense of Universities’ Role in Advancing it” COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Coconut Oil: Health Food or Health Hazard? by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: The Persistence of Memory… and of the Memory Wars, by Carol Tavris ARTICLES The “Lost” Tribes of Israel • The Pentagon’s UFOs How a Multimedia Entertainment Company Created a UFO News Story • The Problem with the Walking Dead And How They Flummoxed Science for Centuries • The Enigma of Stephen Jay Gould • Why the Human Brain Did Not Evolve to Accurately Represent the True Nature of Reality • Homeopathy’s New Clothes: Release Active Drugs • Pressured Apologies, False Confessions, and Witch Hunts • Two Kinds of Progressive Atheism • Surfing for Truth in All the Right Places: An Empirical Test of the Backfire Effect and How the Internet Can Reduce Anti-vaccination Attitudes REVIEWS Reviews of “A review of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities” • “Spectacle of Illusion: Deception Magic and the Paranormal” • “The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost” • “Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture” JUNIOR SKEPTIC The Chilling, Changeling Chupacabra!