How Your Brain Makes Decisions Impacts How It Evaluates (Mis)Information

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How Your Brain Makes Decisions Impacts How It Evaluates (Mis)Information

How do you judge if something is factual? How do you make the decision to accept a statement as being true, versus it being misleading or flat out wrong? What are the calculations going on in your brain that lead to such a decision? And how do they determine who - and what - you trust? In today’s world, reliable information for some is the misinformation of others.

Your brain is constantly sampling its environment and evaluating risk. It has to combine real time sensory information and what it consumes with internal past experiences, biases, and lessons learned in order to update your mental model of the outside world. This is an ever changing and dynamic process that allows you to adapt to the events, people, and situations around you.

Imagine you are on a game show. The game show host starts by giving you a secret word you will need decide how to use later. You are then given exactly five minutes to evaluate a total stranger through a sound proof window. They are assigned the same task. You can see them and they can see you but you can’t communicate in any direct way. To the best of your ability you quickly form an opinion of them. How their appearance strikes you, what their body language is, what you think they might think of you. You arrive at a judgment of this person you’ve never met given the rules of the game in the face of rather incomplete information.

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