jump to navigation

How We Get “Swift Boated” June 29, 2008

Posted by tkcollier in cool stuff.
trackback

Op-Ed Contributor – How Lies Live and Grow in the Brain – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
A false statement from a noncredible source that is at first not believed can gain credibility during the months it takes to reprocess memories from short-term hippocampal storage to longer-term cortical storage. As the source is forgotten, the message and its implications gain strength. This could explain why, during the 2004 presidential campaign, it took some weeks for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry to have an effect on his standing in the polls. Journalists and campaign workers may think they are acting to counter misinformation by pointing out that it is not true. But by repeating a false rumor, they may inadvertently make it stronger.

Even if they do not understand the neuroscience behind source amnesia, campaign strategists can exploit it to spread misinformation. They know that if their message is initially memorable, its impression will persist long after it is debunked. In repeating a falsehood, someone may back it up with an opening line like “I think I read somewhere” or even with a reference to a specific source. Consumers of news, for their part, are prone to selectively accept and remember statements that reinforce beliefs they already hold.

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: