Pew: Younger Americans better at recognizing facts and opinions

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by well named, Oct 23, 2018.

  1. well named
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    well named poorly undertitled Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Younger Americans are better than older Americans at telling factual news statements from opinions

    I admit that my desire to create this thread is in large part just to razz some old people a little bit. Respectfully, of course. But I'm actually a bit surprised by the results! Maybe I shouldn't be, I feel like I can replicate the results of this experiment on this forum :p

    Of course, it is also well known that old age and treachery will easily overcome youth and exuberance, so maybe some of you are just playing a wiser game...
     
  2. Cellblock2429
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    Cellblock2429 Gold Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    /----/ Oh Horse Hockey. I can spot opinion buried in a news story anytime. The younger generations glob on to any nonsense the MSM puts out their loke Goreball Warming. Fake poll.
     
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  3. Damaged Eagle
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    Damaged Eagle Ride the wind Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    We old people would never do such a thing.

    *****CHUCKLE*****



    :cool:
     
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  4. well named
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    well named poorly undertitled Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Glad to hear it.

    I definitely think one of the contributing factors to the difficulty people have evaluating information is our tendency to assume that information which challenges our preconceived notions must be invalid. "Fake news!" is an important meme for that reason. But clearly the reasoning exhibited in your post is fallacious. At best you're just making the mistake of thinking that your anecdotal experience has more epistemic value, or is more representative, than a survey of 5,000 adults. At worst you're just letting your emotional reaction to the data prevent you from even considering that it might tell you something that you didn't know about the world.

    The latter is a really common cognitive bias, as far as I can tell. One reason I think it's worth my time to read and post in this forum is because it's populated mostly with people who have a very different view of the world than my own. It's good to be challenged, if you can get past those knee-jerk reactions. Which doesn't mean automatically accepting information you disagree with either, of course. It just means trying to evaluate things fairly rather than immediately dismissing them.

    Anyway, that's my soapbox. :p

    P.S. To help you out, in case you might be older, the above is an opinion and not a fact. :D
     
  5. SassyIrishLass
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    SassyIrishLass Diamond Member

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    Millennials for the most part are mindless sheep. Hell they can't even manage to escape their parent's basements
     
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  6. RandomPoster
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    RandomPoster VIP Member

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    I think the survey was a bit manipulative.

    1. Stating that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the biggest expenditures is a very touchy issue for older people for an obvious reason and they are inclined to try to bring it down to opinion status. They don't want to view themselves as a burden.

    2. Immigrants who are here in the US illegally having SOME rights? Putting the bar so infinitesimally low older people were forced to say something they don't want to say or have their viewpoints dismissed as opinion, whereas the other side's is technically a fact.

    3. Barrack Obama being born in America, older people are more likely to say it hasn't been proven yet.

    The next two facts neither group is more likely to agree with more.

    4. Democracy being the greatest form of government is an opinion which we all know almost everyone agrees with, except young people are more likely to accept it as opinion because they may disagree with it or at least agree with it less strongly. The older people will be more likely to fall into the common trap of viewing their extremely popular opinion that they feel strongly about as fact.

    5. Immigrants being a problem. Same as #4.

    6. Government is wasteful. Same as #4.

    Both sides were pretty close on abortion rights being an opinion.

    Actually, increasing the minimum wage being good is an opinion that the younger both agree with and may feel passionate about, except they also know they are in the minority on that one so are more likely to know they have to admit it is an opinion. They have become accustomed to this on this issue.

    Basically, when you feel very strongly about an opinion based issue AND you know almost everyone agrees with you, then you're more likely to pound the table and say it's a fact. I believe the first three opinions a lot of older people called facts fit into that category.

    When you feel strongly about something and you feel a fact is being presented in a misleading manner and you know a lot of your peers agree with you anyhow, you're more likely to say it is an opinion even though it is obviously verifiable. I believe the first two facts the older people called opinions fit into that category.
     
  7. well named
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    well named poorly undertitled Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Right, that's kind of the point of the survey, to see how well people are able to neutrally assess whether statements are about matters of fact or matters of opinion, without allowing their prior beliefs to impair their judgement. The survey prompts the respondents to try to approach the questions that way:

    "In the survey, respondents read a series of news statements and were asked to put each statement in one of two categories:

    1. A factual statement, regardless of whether it was accurate or inaccurate. In other words, they were to choose this classification if they thought that the statement could be proved or disproved based on objective evidence.

    2. An opinion statement, regardless of whether they agreed with the statement or not. In other words, they were to choose this classification if they thought that it was based on the values and beliefs of the journalist or the source making the statement, and could not definitively be proved or disproved based on objective evidence."
    That the statements and opinions are connected to polarizing political issues is very much by design. So, for example, when I first read the questions, and I read the one about entitlements spending, I wasn't entirely sure if it was true. I thought it might be the #2 budget item, with the military being #1. I think it's quite plausible that my emotional reaction to the question was conditioned a bit by my support for those programs, because I associate people pointing out their cost in the budget with arguments in favor of cutting the programs. So I was conditioned by that reaction to want to reject the truth of the statement. But having read the instructions, I understood that it was a statement that could be proved or disproved based on objective evidence, so I knew it was a "factual statement" (in their vernacular) either way. It's important to be able to make that distinction, even if you can't entirely suppress your automatic reactions to things.
     
  8. RandomPoster
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    RandomPoster VIP Member

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    They skewed it in favor of getting the results they were looking for. They went at the older generation harder. The opinions presented that younger people agreed with were opinions everyone knows are unpopular. The opinions the older generation agreed with were very popular opinions. The first three facts were misleading and trying to get a reaction out of the older generation. The last two facts were neutral. Surveys like that are easily swayed and manipulated like a lot of BS "studies".
     
  9. well named
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    well named poorly undertitled Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    I think you're making assumptions about Pew's motivations which aren't in evidence. When they first published the results of this survey (in June, IIRC) they didn't mention age breakdowns at all, but focused on how partisanship predicted which questions people would have trouble with. What appears to have happened is that after the fact someone ran some cross-tabs for age and went "oh, that's interesting, we should write a new article about that."

    I do think it's a reasonable hypothesis that young people may have done better because (on average) they have weaker partisan commitments than older people, and are generally less politically engaged, rather than because they are just innately more intelligent. That explanation would jive with this note from the article:

    "This stronger ability to classify statements regardless of their ideological appeal may well be tied to the fact that younger adults – especially Millennials – are less likely to strongly identify with either political party."
    Even granting that hypothesis though, that's still an interesting point. Partisan commitment is associated with cognitive bias. There's plenty of research on that as well. To be clear, I think explanations like that are way better than "lol olds be dumb" or whatever. Like I said originally, I just wanted to razz a few folks, I'm not seriously arguing that this survey should lead to the conclusion that older Americans have inferior intellectual faculties. But trolling aside, interesting data is interesting, all caveats about interpretation fully granted. I think reacting to the data by using words like "manipulation" and questioning the authors' motives demonstrates another really common kind of cognitive bias. It's a defense mechanism aimed at finding a way to reject possibly uncomfortable data. But there's probably no need. There are better ways of making sense of the results.
     

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