Google's "Year in Search 2020" results reveal a year when "why" was searched more than ever.
The year of coronavirus<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk1ODk0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzA5NzI1OH0.vimp4BokTC01Fl9fIWkplEKWdHpO6aX-TSFdnmzynMc/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="64208" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a78d75a3c2cc81a2b421296fdd831f89" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The new national pastime<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk1ODk1NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzc5MzQ3M30.sfNgt_x0PrynD5Brdku6L045lxOuU7PVYw3n9598Dlk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="82bbe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3e30b2180da0cd13e0f6a011d006ae1f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
The Electoral College recently cemented Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election. Congress is scheduled to confirm the votes on January 6, 2021.
Livin' in virtual insanity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk1ODk1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzMxNjUyOX0.x-ttrIxjl9_LfCN9GNNGy5ZocwjtsUYd0kZN--Yeut4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C345%2C0%2C345&height=700" id="4e759" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc71bbeb7cd9423709008b3bd8ab2b23" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
New York students returned to school for in-person learning this December.
Personal growth becomes personal beauty<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk2NDUwNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjIxNjcxMH0.Ng9pn9K_jbVQCZZY7o7i0HpfHPI6o8OzV5nEvLPS57Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="e4b04" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8477605b3cc2e1d8682fbc94e07f5f44" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="at-home haircut" data-width="7360" data-height="4912" />
Credit: Eugenio Marongiu / Adobe Stock<p><a href="https://www.bigthinkedge.com/5-things-to-learn-about-personal-growth-and-how-to-achieve-your-own/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Personal growth</a> and health habits typically have a strong standing in Google's "Year of Search," but in 2020, diets and mindfulness took a backseat to the how-to's. How-to questions became trending searches thanks to Americans being cut off from amenities such as beauty parlors and nail salons.</p><p>Most of the trending how-to searches were for hair care. How to cut men's hair and women's hair. How to plop hair, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/does-hair-dye-cause-cancer" target="_self">color hair</a>, and style curtain bangs. Americans clearly pined for their stylists in 2020. </p><p>Other notable how-to's included dermaplaning, washing hands properly, sewing a face mask, and rocking sweatpants with style. And if that list doesn't signal just how difficult 2020 was, then what else does?</p>
Mother Nature pushes back<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9bb94f5d5a58d40f03e1515f3c2e467c"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gzksqQDI_kE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Well, science news may. 2020's trending science searches centered on natural disasters. Americans googled "fires near me" as conflagrations devoured the West Coast, destroying <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/too-many-trees" target="_self">forests</a>, neighborhoods, and even <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/top-news/articles/2020-09-09/explosive-western-us-wildfires-threaten-oregon-towns" target="_blank">whole towns</a> as they went. <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/hurricane-laura-live-updates" target="_blank">Hurricane Laura</a>, a Category 4 storm, also trended after slamming into Louisiana this August.</p><p>All told, 2020 witnessed <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-running-list-of-record-breaking-natural-disasters-in-2020/" target="_blank">record-breaking levels of natural disasters</a>, many hitting with a force more devastating than previous years. This <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/10/1075142" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rise in climate emergencies</a> is part of a two-decade trend that scientists have linked to climate change and increased global temperatures.</p><p>When not worrying about natural disasters, Americans were fretting over "murder hornets," another trending term. Entomologists discovered the murder hornets—actually named the Asian giant hornets—in Washington state this year. Because native bees have no natural defenses against this <a href="https://bigthink.com/kevin-dickinson/invasive-species-how-the-tegu-lizard-could-invade-the-southern-us" target="_self">invasive species</a>, their colonies can be massacred by a few dozen hornets in mere hours. While one murder hornet's nest was discovered and destroyed near Blaine, Washington, experts worry there may be more.</p><p>At least there was that baby platypus to enjoy. Except no. In true 2020 fashion, <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/the-incredibly-cute-baby-platypus-that-went-viral-has-a-dark-secret-you-ought-to-know" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that picture was bogus</a>—although, not to be a total buzzkill, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhVCwtW6gQ0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">real platypus babies</a> are darn cute.</p>
Aiming to make 2021 a better year<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk1ODk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjM4NzcyNn0.9p5TuitsBtuKblWPCM_mR8DCL7mxoBdrcfMyncrj9vk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C215%2C0%2C215&height=700" id="78c31" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="240158cc13d58aab62156ce4be124409" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Students line up to receive food aid packages provided by the charity Secours Populaire in France.
How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."
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?
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.
Credit: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images<p><br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The ability to label claims and explanations that the authorities deem objectionable as fake has long been regarded as a power," the researchers wrote. "Because the revelation of the falsehood of government denials could erode the government's power, it is important to investigate its consequences, particularly in the authoritarian setting."</p><p>In the study, the researchers conducted a survey on three groups of participants. Each group was shown different information regarding a new automobile registration policy, and they were also asked general questions about demographic information and political interests. The study explains:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The first group was exposed to a rumor regarding the government's automobile registration policy (<em>rumor group</em>), the second group was exposed to the government's denial of the rumor (<em>denial group</em>), and the third group was exposed to an event in which the rumor initially denied by the government was verified as true (<em>verification group</em>)."</p><p>Each group then reported how much they believed in the initial rumor and the government denial. The denial and verification groups were also asked to rate their satisfaction with the government's handling of automobile registration.</p><p>The results showed that government denial effectively decreased belief in the rumor, compared to the group that was exposed only to the rumor. Meanwhile, being exposed to a verification of the rumor increased belief in the rumor and decreased belief in the denial. Also, the verification group reported being slightly less satisfied with the government.</p>
Design of survey 1
Credit: Wang et al.<p>But do these effects last? After all, <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/40982891" target="_blank">past research</a> suggests that the effects of persuasive communication — say, a negative political ad smearing a candidate — tend to disappear within days.</p><p>To find out, the researchers conducted a follow-up survey three weeks after the first. This time, the survey included only two groups: the verification group from the first survey, and a group of new participants. Both groups were exposed to a rumor and then a government denial.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The difference between the two groups was simply that one of them had previously experienced the revelation of the government's false denial of an online rumor, while the other group did not have such an experience," the researchers wrote.</p><p>The results showed that the verification group — that is, people who had weeks earlier been shown that the government had lied to them — was much less likely to believe in the government's denial. What's more, the verification group was also less satisfied with the government.</p>
Design of survey 2
Wang et al.<p>The findings suggest that governments can lose credibility over the long term when they call something "fake news" but it later proves true.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"As discussed earlier, while authoritarian countries can be awash with rumors and fake news, it is less frequent for the government's false denials to be caught due to the lack of independent news media and fact-checking organizations," the researchers wrote.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It is therefore a vivid and memorable experience to see the government's denial bluntly shown to be false. Unsurprisingly, such an experience would make people less willing to believe a new denial from the government, especially if it is somewhat similar to the one that had been shown to be false."</p><p>Ultimately, calling "fake news" on negative information does seem to persuade some people. But it seems to be a costly short-term strategy, one that comes with the added cost of a dissatisfied public.</p>
New research reveals the extent to which groupthink bias is increasingly being built into the content we consume.
- 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.