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Post-Fact Politics and the Pro-Truth-Pledge

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Three sad facts for our post-truth political age. Fact number one: all politicians lie. Fact number two: lying increases the likelihood of a politician getting elected. Fact number three: social media helps spread lies faster and further. Some argue that our liberal democratic systems of government are thus doomed. So, it’s time for a long overdue intervention before we plummet headlong towards a lie-induced, autocratic future. Scientific American to the rescue — good luck with that, I say. First, we’ll need to re-establish the public’s connection with science, which remains rather tenuous at the moment.

From Scientific American:

Tilting the scale toward truth requires a two-pronged approach, one targeting both private citizens and public figures. Research shows that without any intervention people tend to ignore information that goes against their beliefs, and are more likely to deceive both when they see others do so and when it benefits their in-group. However, increased risk of suffering negative consequences, being reminded about ethics, publicity about and committing in advance to honesty all decrease the incentive to lie for ordinary citizens. For public figures, research suggests that transparent, clear information about who is truthful, coupled with reputational rewards for socially beneficial behavior such as honesty and enforced with penalties for dishonesty are the most vital interventions.

To solve the problem of systemic lying, a group of behavioral scientists, along with many concerned citizens have launched the Pro-Truth Pledge. This asks all signees to commit to a set of truth-oriented behaviors. Whenever they share a news article, signees are encouraged to add a sentence stating they took the Pledge and verify that they fact checked the article, which serves to remind people of their ethical commitment.

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