Study confirms the existence of a special kind of groupthink in large groups.
- Large groups of people everywhere tend to come to the same conclusions.
- In small groups, there's a much wider diversity of ideas.
- The mechanics of a large group make some ideas practically inevitable.
The grouping game<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ1NDE2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjI2MzA4OX0.RLrswIWbuEzHNqsw0F7EUrp9jPn7OulLPqCxcZT11ik/img.jpg?width=980" id="159b8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0feb15d2d7dde144c710c2f4f1e5350c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2767" data-height="382" />
Some of the shapes used in the experiment
Credit: Guilbeault, et al./University of Pennsylvania<p>The researchers tested their theory with 1,480 people playing an online "Grouping Game" via Amazon's Mechanical Turk platform. The individuals were paired with another participant or made a member of a group of 6, 8, 24, or 50 people. Each pair and group were tasked with categorizing the symbols shown above, and they could see each other's answers.</p><p>The small groups came up with wildly divergent categories—the entire experiment produced nearly 5,000 category suggestions—while the larger groups came up with categorization systems that were virtually identical to each other.</p><p><a href="https://www.asc.upenn.edu/news-events/news/why-independent-cultures-think-alike-its-not-in-the-brain" target="_blank">Says Centol</a>a, "Even though we predicted it, I was nevertheless stunned to see it really happen. This result challenges many long-held ideas about culture and how it forms."</p><p>Nor was this unanimity a matter of having teamed-up like-minded individuals. "If I assign an individual to a small group," says lead author Douglas Guilbeault, "they are much more likely to arrive at a category system that is very idiosyncratic and specific to them. But if I assign that same individual to a large group, I can predict the category system that they will end up creating, regardless of whatever unique viewpoint that person happens to bring to the table."</p>
Why this happens<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ1NDE4NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjkzMDg0Nn0.u2hdEIgNw4drFZ2frzx0AJ_MAxIizuM98rdovQrIblk/img.jpg?width=980" id="d3444" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5da57d66e388fad0f1c17afb09af90a7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="822" />
The many categories suggested by small groups on the left, the few from large groups on the right
Credit: Guilbeault, et al./Nature Communications<p>The striking results of the experiment correspond to a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-019-0607-5" target="_blank">previous study</a> done by NDG that investigated tipping points for people's behavior in networks.</p><p>That study concluded that after an idea enters a discussion among a large network of people, it can gain irresistible traction by popping up again and again in enough individuals' conversations. In networks of 50 people or more, such ideas eventually reach critical mass and become a prevailing opinion.</p><p>The same phenomenon does not happen often enough within a smaller network, where fewer interactions offer an idea less of an opportunity to take hold.</p>
Beyond categories<p>The study's finding raises an interesting practical possibility: Would categorization-related decisions made by large groups be less likely to fall prey to members' individual biases?</p><p>With this question in mind, the researchers are currently looking into content moderation on Facebook and Twitter. They're investigating whether the platforms would be wiser when categorizing content as free speech or hate speech if large groups were making these decisions instead of lone individuals working at these companies.</p><p>Similarly, they're also exploring the possibility that larger networks of doctors and healthcare professionals might be better at making diagnoses that would avoid biases such as racism or sexism that could cloud the judgment of individual practitioners.</p><p>"Many of the worst social problems reappear in every culture," notes Centola, "which leads some to believe these problems are intrinsic to the human condition. Our research shows that these problems are intrinsic to the social experiences humans have, not necessarily to humans themselves. If we can alter that social experience, we can change the way people organize things, and address some of the world's greatest problems."</p>
Imagine Heraclitus spending an afternoon down by the river...
A 2020 study published in the journal of Psychological Science explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.
- In 2019, researchers at Stanford Engineering analyzed the spread of fake news as if it were a strain of Ebola. They adapted a model for understanding diseases that can infect a person more than once to better understand how fake news spreads and gains traction.
- A new study published in 2020 explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.
- "These findings demonstrate one situation in which misinformation reminders can diminish the negative effects of fake-news exposure in the short term," researchers on the project explained.
Previous studies on misinformation have already paved the way to a better understanding<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU1NzQ4NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjE2Mjg1Nn0.hs_xHktN1KXUDVoWpHIVBI2sMJy6aRK6tvBVFkqmYjk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C800%2C0%2C800&height=700" id="8873f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="246bb1920c0f40ccb15e123914de1ab1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="fake news concept of misinformation and fake news in the media" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
How does misinformation spread?
Credit: Visual Generation on Shutterstock<p><strong>What is the "continued-influence" effect?</strong></p><p>A challenge in using corrections effectively is that repeating the misinformation can have negative consequences. Research on this effect (referred to as "continued-influence") has shown that information presented as factual that is later deemed false can still contaminate memory and reasoning. The persistence of the continued-influence effect has led researchers to generally recommend avoiding repeating misinformation. </p><p>"Repetition increases familiarity and believability of misinformation," <a href="https://engineering.stanford.edu/magazine/article/how-fake-news-spreads-real-virus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the study explains</a>.</p><p><strong>What is the "familiarity-backfire" effect?</strong></p><p>Studies of this effect have shown that increasing misinformation familiarity through extra exposure to it leads to misattributions of fluency when the context of said information cannot be recalled. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620952797#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2017 study</a> examined this effect in myth correction. Subjects rated beliefs in facts and myths of unclear veracity. Then, the facts were affirmed and myths corrected and subjects again made belief ratings. The results suggested a role for familiarity but the myth beliefs remained below pre-manipulation levels. </p>
New research into fake news has uncovered something interesting about misinformation<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ddeac998508e09fb9d1b4691d6c20d28"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bJ5qUx1WOsg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>A 2020 study published in the journal of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620952797" target="_blank">Psychological Science</a> explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.</p><p>Fake news exposure can cause misinformation to be mistakenly remembered and believed. In two experiments, the team (led by Christopher N. Wahlheim) examined whether reminders of misinformation could do the opposite: improve memory for and beliefs in corrections to that fake news. </p><p>The study had subjects reading factual statements and then separate misinformation statements taken from news websites. Then, the subjects read statements that corrected the misinformation. Some misinformation reminders appeared before some corrections but not all. Then, subjects were asked to recall facts, indicate their belief in those recalls, and indicate whether they remembered the corrections and misinformation. </p><p>The results of the study showed that reminders increased recall and belief accuracy. These benefits were greater both when misinformation was recalled and when the subjects remembered that corrections had occurred. </p><p>Researchers on the project <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620952797" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">explained</a>: "These findings demonstrate one situation in which misinformation reminders can diminish the negative effects of fake-news exposure in the short term."</p><p><strong>The conclusion: fake-news misinformation that was corrected by fact-checked information can improve both memory and belief accuracy in real information.</strong></p><p>"We examined the effects of providing misinformation reminders before fake-news corrections on memory and belief accuracy. Our study included everyday fake-news misinformation that was corrected by fact-check-verified statements. Building on research using fictional, yet naturalistic, event narratives to show that reminders can counteract misinformation reliance in memory reports," <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620952797" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the researchers</a> explained.</p><p>"It suggests that there may be benefits to learning how someone was being misleading. This knowledge may inform strategies that people use to counteract high exposure to misinformation spread for political gain," <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/afps-rtf101620.php" target="_blank">Wahlheim said</a>.</p>
What speech is harmful, how do we know, and what do we do if we find out?
- Modern debates over free speech rage on the internet, but what do experts say?
- Some think it is easy to go too far in limiting public debate by offending parties, others argue limits are part of normal discourse.
- While the debate isn't settled, these thinkers can give you some starting points for your next discussion.
Stance #1: Meta- argumentative allegations are a tool that should be used sparingly.<p>Dr. Hugh Breakey of Griffith University lays out his case in the essay <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10503-020-09538-8" target="_blank">"'That's Unhelpful, Harmful and Offensive!' Epistemic and Ethical Concerns with Meta-argument Allegations</a><em>."</em></p><p>Breakey argues that "meta-arguments," statements that focus on external features of an argument rather than an argument's soundness, can be used to critique arguments by pointing out the harm that an argument might cause. </p><p>As an example, imagine that somebody tells an armed mob without evidence that grocers are the cause of a crippling food shortage. Pointing out that this argument might cause harm provides an ethical good (the speaker might not make the argument now that they know harm may come of it) and an epistemic good (the argument might be improved or abandoned if the weakness of it is pointed out). While meta-arguments aren't good or bad by themselves, this example shows how they can be used positively. </p><p>However, other times critiques that seem clear to one party in an argument can seem groundless to others. In these cases, meta-arguments can derail discussion rather than clarify it. Worse, it can be impossible to get back on track after these allegations are made. </p><p>Big Think reached out to Dr. Breakey, who offered this elaboration on his position:</p><p><br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"When we call out what someone says in an argument as offensive, harmful or unhelpful, it can feel like we are applying an impartial standard. We're setting down sensible, objective rules within which constructive civil debate can occur. But the reality is that our judgments about such matters are likely to be as controversial and contestable—and, unfortunately, influenced by emotional and cognitive biases—as our views on the original topic of the debate. Reasonable people can disagree on the risks of harm created by speech, the ethical weight that should be given to those harms, where the moral responsibility for those harms properly lies, and how these factors relate to the importance of freely discussing the original topic of the debate. These are all complicated and difficult questions, and will be answered differently by people with different political views and life experiences. As a result, we need to exercise great caution in leveling allegations of harm and offence during an argument. Otherwise, the very differences that led to the original debate—and that make that debate worthwhile—will be used to foreclose it."</p><p><br></p><p>Given these concerns, the essay ends with a call for "argumentational tolerance" that is weary of using meta-argumentative allegations in general, but is open to using them when the speech in question is obviously harmful, such as instances of hate speech or calls to violence.</p>
Stance #2: Platforms lend credence, and some people shouldn't be given that.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0f1b4a4cef6cb4f8c278306a20dd49ed"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qjDLux9EXCE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Another stance is taken by Professor Neil Levy of The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics<strong>, </strong>in their essay <a href="https://aeon.co/ideas/why-no-platforming-is-sometimes-a-justifiable-position" target="_blank">"Why no-platforming is sometimes a justifiable position."</a></p><p>They agree with many others that free speech is valuable and that good-faith arguments are generally good. However, they find the idea of deplatforming for meta-argumentative reasons more compelling than others might. </p><p>In Dr. Levy's essay, they ask you to imagine that a university has invited a speaker who rejects climate change's existence to speak on that topic. While that position is bunk, the very act of being invited to speak by a prestigious university grants credence to what the speaker has to say, which cannot easily be refuted by other, better arguments. </p><p>Things like being invited to speak by a prestigious school or having seemingly valid credentials can be "higher-order" evidence in favor of their position. Higher-order evidence, Dr. Levy explains, influences how we evaluate arguments. Higher-order evidence in favor of our position can make us more confident in it, while opposing evidence can lead us to moderate our stances. </p><p>However, Dr. Levy points out the difficulty of countering higher-order evidence, or the legitimacy it confers, by rational argument alone. They further out the usefulness of attacking the credibility of the speaker's bunk arguments by focusing not on the argument but on the higher-order evidence's validity. Here, ad-hominem attacks and meta- argumentative critiques of their speaking at all can remove the higher-order evidence. Deplatforming, often critiqued as the suppression of speech, can also be useful, as it prevents a person from being granted the legitimacy that a speaking invitation can bring.</p><p>There is a difference between this position and that of Dr. Breakey. Dr. Levy is more concerned with matters of fact rather than debates over what constitutes acceptable discourse. However, this stance is clearly more open to the idea of using meta-argumental allegations to keep speech non-harmful and productive than other common positions are. </p>
Stance #3: Deciding what speech is “acceptable” is a fundamental aspect of public discourse.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e6e7eae4f8711c1ba0aed143bbfd5098"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0foSXKph9wI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lastly, we have the stance described by the University of Illinois Professor Nicholas Grossman in an essay titled "<a href="https://arcdigital.media/free-speech-defenders-dont-understand-the-critique-against-them-4ed8327c0879" target="_blank">Free Speech Defenders Don't Understand the Critique Against Them</a>."</p><p>Professor Grossman considers the current debate around "free speech" and suggests that the debate is really over what we consider socially acceptable these days—a discussion which we've had before and will have again.</p><p>As he points out, most people would agree that there is nothing wrong with deciding that Holocaust denial is odious. Furthermore, they would likely also agree that private actors can (and should) use their capacities to limit the space available for a Holocaust denier to speak in. Most people would also hardly shed a tear if the denier faced social consequences for their speech. However, not everybody agrees on giving the same treatment to J.K. Rowling in light of her statements concerning transgender individuals.<br> <br> Professor Grossman argues that our current discussions are really about where the line of "acceptability" is. Are people, like Rowling, crossing that line when they imply transgender women are not women? If so, what social consequences should they face, if any? What else might be on the other side of that line now? How do we know? The line has moved before, consider how common the public use of racial slurs was in the past, is the idea of moving the line now any different? </p><p>They agree with Dr. Breakey in thinking that these are big questions without easy answers. However, Professor Grossman suggests that, in determining what speech is socially acceptable, these discussions can, and must, take place for debate to move forward. In contrast, Dr. Breakey suggests that these concerns can derail other debates if not used properly. </p>
How can I use this?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d1134bccc91f9e731c06e8170e010c5b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0w5Zg9kKg3A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Perhaps the most obvious take away is that all three of these thinkers agree that certain speakers, notably those inciting violence or those deliberately trying to cause harm using racial slurs, can (and perhaps should) be challenged. It suggests a semblance of agreement exists around the idea that some speech does harm and that this legitimizes certain follow up actions to prevent the speech.</p><p>This idea is nothing new; even John Stuart Mill agreed with the idea of censoring speech that could cause immediate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9IM3ZKNMCk" target="_blank">violence</a>. </p><p>The three thinkers considered here also all agree on the importance of open debate in general. None of them are suggesting that you should be arrested for giving an unpopular opinion. They all argue in favor of using reasoned, respectful debate to advance our understanding of various issues. </p><p>However, they disagree on how easy it is to know what is respectful debate and what is speech worthy of critique, deplatforming, and social consequence, and what to do when that line is crossed. While the three do seem to be concerned with slightly different scales, Professor Grossman focuses on societal debates while Dr. Levy focuses on institutional level problems, the differences endure, and each stance can be applied at various scales.</p><p>Despite this lack of agreement, they all provide strong arguments for their position and a launchpad for further debate. Though, we might need to already agree on a few points before that debate can even happen.</p>
While this has been a popular debate, the evidence suggests there isn't a strong link between pornography use and erectile dysfunction (ED).
- According to UW Health, around 5 percent of men that are 40 years old have complete erectile dysfunction. That number increases to about 15 percent by age 70.
- While there are many things that can cause or contribute to ED (such as high blood pressure, smoking, the use of drugs or alcohol, depression, and anxiety), there has been wide debate over the impacts of pornography use.
- Several studies outlined in this article look at the supposed link between ED and pornography use.
Can pornography really cause erectile dysfunction?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyMjIxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODc3NDE0MH0.YIoVjpvc1V2X6viFQ0q62Bfr37dzWZGDb_JdfzpOlv8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="39743" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cbb4798850bfefec88f62c3538741ba0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="naked man hiding behind a pillow" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Is there really any evidence proving porn causes ED?
Photo by PrinceOfLove on Shutterstock<p>Over the years, there have been multiple studies with conflicting results when it comes to this controversial question.</p><p><strong>A 2012 study links porn and erectile dysfunction in men ages 20-40 but says it is only "one piece of the puzzle."</strong></p><p>According to a <a href="https://www.webmd.com/sex/news/20170512/study-sees-link-between-porn-and-sexual-dysfunction#1" target="_blank">HealthDay News study</a>, porn-addicted men are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and are less likely to be satisfied with sexual intercourse. This was determined based on a survey of 312 men between the ages of 20-40. Of men surveyed, 3.4 percent said they preferred masturbating to pornography over sexual intercourse, but the researchers found a statistical relationship between porn addiction and sexual dysfunction.</p><p>According to lead researcher Dr. Matthew Christman (staff urologist with the Naval Medical Center in San Diego), the rates of organic causes of ED in this age cohort are extremely low, so the increase in erectile dysfunction needs to be explained. "We believe that pornography may be one piece to that puzzle. Our data does not suggest it is the only explanation, however."</p><p><strong>A 2016 study has also been cited as proof that pornography use causes ED, however the study itself explains that more research is needed to prove this theory.</strong> </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5039517/#B9-behavsci-06-00017" target="_blank">According to this study</a>, 1 in 4 participants who sought help for new-onset ED were younger than 40, which was highly unusual. The conclusion of this study was that traditional factors that once explained sexual difficulties in men appear insufficient to account for the sharp rise in sexual dysfunctions and low sexual desire in these men."Both the literature and our clinical reports underscore the need for extensive investigation of Internet pornography's potential effects on users, ideally by having subjects remove the variable of internet pornography in order to demonstrate potential effects of behavioral modification," the authors wrote.</p><p><strong>An Italian study suggests men could suffer from "sexual anorexia" after pornography use. </strong></p><p>A survey of 28,000 users suggests many Italian males started an "excessive consumption" of porn sites as early as 14 years of age. The study uses the term "sexual anorexia," which is referred to in this case as a pathological loss of appetite for romantic-sexual interactions. </p><p>This particular study has been cited in multiple articles that claim ED is directly linked to pornography use. However, the study, listed in ANSA, outlines "daily use" for people in their early-mid 20s, and how individuals <em>may </em>become "inured to even the most violent images" in porn. </p><p>"It starts with lower reactions to porn sites, then there is a general drop in libido and in the end it becomes impossible to get an erection," <a href="https://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/rubriche/english/2011/02/24/visualizza_new.html_1583160579.html" target="_blank">explains Carlo Foresta</a>, head of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine (SIAMS). </p><p><strong>A 2019 study that analyzed porn watching and ED risk suggested there isn't likely to be a link. </strong></p><p><a href="https://www.seksuologen-vlaanderen.be/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Grubbs-Gola-2019-J-SEX-MED-no-causal-link-pornography-and-ED-2.pdf" target="_blank">According to this study</a>, which sampled 877 American men between the ages of 18-60, porn-watching and ED were not likely to be linked. While it was true that some porn-watching men in the study did report ED, researchers found "very little evidence that mere pornography use is associated with changes in erection function."</p><p><strong>While porn may have some impact on ED, that impact isn't always negative.</strong></p><p>"ED is a biopsychosocial phenomenon, meaning there are many factors that can contribute to it," Christene Lorenzo, a therapist specializing in sexual health and relationships, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/experts-debunk-new-survey-claiming-watching-adult-videos-causes-ed#What-sexual-health-experts-think" target="_blank">explains to HealthLine</a>. </p><p>There are many possible physiological, psychological, and relationship factors that impact ED that most surveys arguing the impacts of pornography of erectile function don't take into account. <span></span></p><p>Additionally, while porn-induced erectile dysfunction is possible, porn may also actually help with ED in some cases. Erectile dysfunction is a complex health issue that has both physical and mental health components, according to <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317117" target="_blank">Medical News Today</a>. </p><p>"A <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/sm2.58" target="_blank" style="">2015 study</a> found that men who reported more time spent viewing pornography had greater sexual responsiveness to a partner in a laboratory setting. This suggests that pornography might help prime the brain or body for sex, potentially improving intercourse with a partner." </p>