What, why, and how do we respond?

Tuesday, February 11 2020 at 7:30PM

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199 Malmesbury Park Road

Stephan Lewandowsky

What's the talk about?

Imagine a world that considers knowledge to be "elitist''. Imagine a world in which it is not medical knowledge but a free-for-all opinion market on Twitter that determines whether a newly emergent strain of avian flu is really contagious to humans.

This dystopian future is still just that---a possible future. However, there are signs that public discourse is evolving in this direction: Terms such as "post-truth'' and "fake news'', largely unknown until 2016, have exploded into media and public discourse.

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky will explore the implications of the growing abundance of misinformation in the public sphere, how it influences people and how to counter it. He argues that for counter-measures to be effective, they must be informed by the larger political, technological, and societal context.

The post-truth world arguably emerge as a result of societal mega-trends, such as a decline in social capital, growing economic inequality, increased polarization, declining trust in science, and an increasingly fractionated media landscape. Considered against the background of those over-arching trends, misinformation in the post-truth era can no longer be considered solely an isolated failure of individual cognition that can be corrected with appropriate communication tools.

Stephan suggests that responses to the post-truth era must therefore be multi-pronged, including technological solutions that incorporate psychological principles, an interdisciplinary approach that we describe as "technocognition.'' Technocognition uses findings from cognitive science to inform the design of information architectures that encourage the dissemination of high-quality information and that discourage the spread of misinformation.


Professor Stephan Lewandowsky is a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol. He was an Australian Professorial Fellow from 2007 to 2012, and was awarded a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council in 2011. He is an award-winning teacher and was Associate Editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition from 2006-2008.

He is currently serving as Digital Content Editor for the Psychonomic Society and blogs routinely on cognitive research at https://featuredcontent.psychonomic.org/. His personal blog is at http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/.