Every day we’re bombarded with information and, with each new story or alternative fact, we have to decide what we believe to be true.
But some of the mental short cuts we take to sift through this material allow us to be deceived: past experiences, political beliefs and laziness can all cloud our judgment. In this episode of The Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal explores why truth can be elusive. We’ll meet a woman who discovered her husband had been lying to her for 15 years, and fought through her pain to find the truth. We talk with one psychologist who argues that critical thinking skills can be weaponised to encourage a person to believe in conspiracy theories; and to someone who, through extensive research, is convinced the earth is flat. People shape their identities around their notion of truth. This may go some way to explain why it is easier to fool someone than to convince them they have been fooled.
Producer: Chris Browning
Picture: Goldfish Shark
Credit: Getty Images
Fake News - sometimes it’s obvious to spot, other times it requires more thoughtful investigation. That’s a fact checker’s job; dedicated researchers trying to flesh out what is true and what is not in the deluge of information we see every day. In 2015 the International Fact Checking Network was established to give strength to this small but dedicated group. It now has 62 verified signatories. In this episode of the Why Factor on the BBC World Service, Sandra Kanthal speaks with fact checkers from Turkey, the Philippines and Brazil; to find out what motivates them to combat Fake News, especially in countries where speaking truth to power comes with considerable risk. How do they do this difficult job, and why are they so determined to improve the skills all of us can use to call out false claims?
Photo: A fact checking journalist at work
Credit: AFP / Getty Images
Why Scarcity Can Damage Decision Making
Ayeisha Thomas-Smith discovers how when we suffer a scarcity of mental resources, we fail to plan for our futures. That means, according to Princeton psychology professor Eldar Shafir, that millions of people on low incomes where money is scarce are finding it much harder than others to improve their lives. Not because they are untalented or do not want to, but because their brain circuitry is overloaded. And the professor believes even people who are not short of money but are trying to lose weight, could also be impacted by this scarcity mindset. Ayeisha hears about experiments in the US and India which seem to show that as our mental “band-width” diminishes and we become overloaded by problems, our chances of thinking our way out of our situation reduces as well.
(Photo: An Asylum Seeker. Credit: Getty Images)
Plane, Train and Bird Spotting
Why do people love plane, train and bird spotting?
Novice aviation geek Alys Harte enters the worlds of twitchers, birders, watchers and spotters.
She meets Noel Marsh-Giddings, who has flown on the shortest and longest flights on the planet - just for the sake of flying; she goes ‘birding’ on the east coast of England with Ashley Saunders where they have a close encounter with a sparrow hawk (and a photobombing mallard!) and speaks to Prof. Kiyohito Utsunomiya, transport economist and railway fan about the subcultures within subcultures that make up Japanese ‘tetsu’ train spotters.
Photo: Man in a field with binoculars. Credit: Getty Creative Images. ISO3000
Why Have Women Taken To Wellness?
Women are increasingly seeking out ways to look after their minds, bodies and emotions. Nutrition and lifestyle changes - from meditating to drinking green smoothies full of so-called super foods - all come under the term wellness.
There are wellness celebrities and online communities, observers even refer to a wellness industry.
Nastaran Tavakoli-Far asks what is driving women away from the medical establishment in an effort to improve their health.
Photo: Yoga Exercise At Wetland In Huangshan
Credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images