People who primarily use their own intuition to determine what is true and false have an easier time jumping into conspiracy theories. Researchers at Linköping University investigated the relationship between misinformation and the belief that truth is relevant.
– I think many people who put forward a very relativistic view of what truth is mean well. They believe it is important for everyone to have their voice heard. But these results show that such a view is actually quite dangerous, says Julia Aspernas, PhD student at Linköping University’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning.
In two studies reported in an article in the Journal of Research in Personality, he and two colleagues explored the link between so-called truth relativism and the risk of falling victim to false or fraudulent information.
The first study involved about a thousand Swedes. Through a web form, participants were asked to answer questions about their view of what reality is. After that, they had to take a stand on various conspiracy theories and also evaluate the content of several nonsensical sentences.
The researchers also collected information on factors found to be associated with belief in misinformation, such as analytical thinking skills, political orientation, age, gender, and level of education.
In the second study, about 400 people from Great Britain participated. Here the battery of questions was expanded and the participants’ degree of stubbornness and willingness to modify their views when faced with new facts was also measured.
From the material, researchers have identified two types of true relativism. Those who are somewhat convinced that what you personally feel is also true There is Truth, I mean truth subjective. Those who believe that truth depends on the so-called culture or group one belongs to Cultural relativism.
The result clearly shows that People who believe that truth is subjective are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories and hold onto their beliefs even when faced with conflicting facts. They have a greater tendency to read deep messages as nonsense sentences.
Even when researchers examined other possible explanations, such as analytical thinking ability or political orientation, subjectivism remained an independent, explanatory factor. For those who believe that truth is culturally bound and that its results point in somewhat different directions, the connections are almost as unclear.
To the researchers’ surprise, the UK data collection showed a link between subjectivism and dogmatism. Someone who claims that truth is personal can, paradoxically, at the same time deny others the right to their own truth.
Julia Aspernäs thinks the results are useful When listening to political discussions, for example about school. People may have different opinions on matters of fact, but there may be fundamental differences of opinion about how the world works and what lies behind it.
– The idea came to me when I heard discussions about whether students should learn true knowledge or be encouraged to seek what they think is true. Discussants seem to have diametrically opposed assumptions about what truth is, and argue that their particular approach is best for students to become critical thinkers. Although our study did not investigate causal relationships, truth relativism appears to be associated with greater belief in misinformation. Being with you can be important, he says.
This research was funded by the Swedish Research Council.
Julia Aspernas, PhD student +46 739 856 489; +46 13-28 15 73, [email protected]
Meaning: Misconceptions in a post-truth world: The effects of subjectivism and cultural relativism on nonsense acceptability and conspiracy theory.Julia Aspernäs, Arvid Erlandsson, Arthur Nilsson, Journal of Research in Personality, published online June 2023, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2023.104394
Jonas RoselundHumanities, social sciences and utbildnings.v013-28 16 [email protected]
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