What's the Latest Development?
You would be forgiven for thinking that this year's presidential election may come down to the truthiness of each party's claims, rather than their truth. Truthiness, a word inducted into the Merriam-Webster's dictionary thanks to satirist Stephen Colbert, is defined as "the quality of seeming to be true according to one’s intuition...without regard to logic [or] factual evidence." The new word coincides with psychological evidence suggesting that people often rely on their feelings to determine what is true, and that that feeling is strongly influenced by the presence of related, but irrelevant, information.
What's the Big Idea?
In a series of psychological experiments, researchers from three Canadian universities found that the mere presence of a (speciously relevant) photograph next to a statement made it more likely that people would believe the statement. "This is especially important in the context of political campaigns, as it suggests that that the mere presence of a picture next to a candidate’s written claims could lead people to be more likely to believe them. The work is another demonstration of the ease with which our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors can be manipulated through relatively innocuous means."
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