Misinformation is everywhere online, and it's easy to accept and fall for if you don't make an effort to challenge your own beliefs from time to time. Playing your own devil's advocate can help. Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov.
Confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret and favour information that confirms your preexisting beliefs, can be a lot more powerful when you're reading things online because there's often no one around to challenge you with alternatives. That's why Dr David Dunning, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University, suggests you try to stay mindful and challenge yourself to avoid falling for any misinformation:
If no one else is around, it pays to be your own devil's advocate. Don't just believe what the Internet has to say; question it. Practice a disconfirmation bias. If you're looking up medical information about a health problem, don't stop at the first diagnosis that looks right. Search for alternative possibilities. In addition, look for ways in which that diagnosis might be wrong. Research shows that "considering the opposite" -- actively asking how a conclusion might be wrong -- is a valuable exercise for reducing unwarranted faith in a conclusion.
The next time an article gives you a knee-jerk reaction of "Yes, I agree!" take a moment to reflect and reassess the information. Ask yourself, "Is this information satisfying to me or in line with my own beliefs?" If so, try to play the other side and dig around for information in favour of the opposition.
Why the internet isn't making us smarter - and how to fight back [The Conversation via Science of Us]