Evaluating Sources of Scientific Evidence and Claims in the Post-Truth Era may Require Reappraising Plausibility Judgements

Posted on by Stephen Gee

When individuals have questions about scientific issues, they often search the Internet. Evaluating sources of information and claims they find has become more difficult in the post-truth era. Students are often taught source evaluation techniques, but the proliferation of “fake news” has resulted in a misinformation arms race. As searchers get more sophisticated identifying misleading information, so do purveyors of information who intend to mislead. We draw on a theoretical model of plausibility judgments and current theory and research in source evaluation to suggest that the post-truth era elevates the need for critical evaluation of online information about scientific issues. We argue that explicitly reappraising plausibility judgments may be a crucial addition to evaluating the connections between sources of information and knowledge claims. Individuals who search for and read a scientific article online should ask themselves: Is this explanation plausible, and how do I know?

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