The issues and ideas that mattered most to Americans in 2020

Google's "Year in Search 2020" results reveal a year when "why" was searched more than ever.

Big Think
  • Google has released its latest "Year in Search" results, an aggregation of its 2020 data that reveals the year's most pressing ideas, concerns, and questions.
  • Coronavirus and the election dominated trending searches, with most every other category orbiting these massive headline-generating forces.
  • However, the data also show people making the best of it, helping each other, and preparing for a better 2021.
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    3 reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it

    How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."

    Photo by Filip Mishevski on Unsplash
    An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus.
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    Will America’s disregard for science be the end of its reign?

    Confirmation bias is baked into the DNA of America, but it may soon be the nation's undoing.

    • From America's inception, there has always been a rebellious, anti-establishment mentality. That way of thinking has become more reckless now that the entire world is interconnected and there are added layers of verification (or repudiation) of facts.
    • As the great minds in this video can attest, there are systems and mechanisms in place to discern between opinion and truth. By making conscious efforts to undermine and ignore those systems at every turn (climate change, conspiracy theories, coronavirus, politics, etc.), America has compromised its position of power and effectively stunted its own growth.
    • A part of the problem, according to writer and radio host Kurt Andersen, is a new media infrastructure that allows for false opinions to persist and spread to others. Is it the beginning of the end of the American empire?

    Study: Do people trust governments less when ‘fake news’ proves real?

    People remember when governments lie to them and it lowers their satisfaction in government officials.

    • A recent study measured how the public's trust in government differs when exposed to rumors, government denials, and subsequent verification of the initial rumors.
    • The study, conducted in China, also examined whether any changes in trust lasted over a three-week period.
    • The results suggest that governments that deem negative information as "fake news" may persuade some people, but over the long term it can cost them in credibility and public satisfaction.
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    The homogeneity of the news media can now be quantified

    New research reveals the extent to which groupthink bias is increasingly being built into the content we consume.

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    • When ownership of news sources is concentrated into the hands of just a handful of corporations, the kind of reporting that audiences get to see is limited and all the more likely to be slanted by corporate interests.
    • Newsroom employment has declined dramatically over the past decade, and this has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • The findings of a new University of Illinois study suggest that Washington journalists operate in insular microbubbles that are vulnerable to consensus seeking. If the reporters on the Hill are feeding America copycat news information, we are all at risk of succumbing to groupthink.
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