J. Kavanagh, M. D. Rich, ‘Truth Decay’

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. . . analytical interpretations of facts and data evolve with new discoveries, the collection of new data, or the development of new technologies that allow for the retesting of even well-established findings. Our focus on Truth Decay does not stem from concern about this evolution, which is a natural and inevitable feature of knowledge accumulation and scientific progress. Nor is it meant as an attack on skepticism or questioning of existing analytical interpretations of facts and data, which is healthy. Instead, we are concerned with the growing imbalance in political and civil discourse between, on the one hand, trust and reliance on facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data and, on the other, opinions and personal attitudes . . .

Although we see some evidence that previous eras also experienced a decline in trust in institutions, this trend seems to be more pronounced now than in the past. Distrust of banks and financial institutions certainly grew in the 1920s–1930s, and the social upheaval of the 1960s–1970s . . . left many questioning the veracity of government . . . In contrast, we see no evidence in any of these earlier periods of an increase in disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data. This trend appears today in the form of disagreement over scientific findings, data and statistics, and objective facts . . .

We have identified four drivers, or potential causes, of Truth Decay.

. . . 3. Competing demands on the educational system that limit its ability to keep pace with changes in the information system. As the information system has become increasingly complex, competing demands and fiscal constraints on the educational system have reduced the emphasis on civic education, media literacy, and critical thinking. Students need exactly this type of knowledge and these skills to effectively evaluate information sources, identify biases, and separate fact from opinion and falsehood. This gap between the challenges of the information system and the training provided to students drives and perpetuates Truth Decay by contributing to the creation of an electorate that is susceptible to consuming and disseminating disinformation, misinformation, and information that blur the line between fact and opinion. In this context, Truth Decay flourishes.

Jennifer Kavanagh, Michael D. Rich, Truth Decay : An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life [PDF] ; Santa Monica : RAND Corporation, 2018 (excerpt La Litera información)

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