Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists discover the truth behind Colbert's 'truthiness'

Date:
August 8, 2012
Source:
Springer Science+Business Media
Summary:
A picture inflates the perceived truth of true and false claims. Trusting research over their guts, scientists in New Zealand and Canada examined the phenomenon Stephen Colbert, comedian and news satirist, calls "truthiness" -- the feeling that something is true. In four different experiments they discovered that people believe claims are true, regardless of whether they actually are true, when a decorative photograph appears alongside the claim.

Picture of a thermometer. In four different experiments researchers discovered that people believe claims are true, regardless of whether they actually are true, when a decorative photograph appears alongside the claim.
Credit: © vladischern / Fotolia

A picture inflates the perceived truth of true and false claims.

Trusting research over their guts, scientists in New Zealand and Canada examined the phenomenon Stephen Colbert, comedian and news satirist, calls "truthiness" -- the feeling that something is true. In four different experiments they discovered that people believe claims are true, regardless of whether they actually are true, when a decorative photograph appears alongside the claim. The work is published online in the Springer journal, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

"We wanted to examine how the kinds of photos people see every day -- the ones that decorate newspaper or TV headlines, for example -- might produce "truthiness," said lead investigator Eryn J. Newman of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. "We were really surprised by what we found."

In a series of four experiments in both New Zealand and Canada, Newman and colleagues showed people a series of claims such as, "The liquid metal inside a thermometer is magnesium" and asked them to agree or disagree that each claim was true. In some cases, the claim appeared with a decorative photograph that didn't reveal if the claim was actually true -- such as a thermometer. Other claims appeared alone. When a decorative photograph appeared with the claim, people were more likely to agree that the claim was true, regardless of whether it was actually true.

Across all the experiments, the findings fit with the idea that photos might help people conjure up images and ideas about the claim more easily than if the claim appeared by itself. "We know that when it's easy for people to bring information to mind, it 'feels' right," said Newman.

The research has important implications for situations in which people encounter decorative photos, such as in the media or in education. "Decorative photos grab people's attention," Newman said. "Our research suggests that these photos might have unintended consequences, leading people to accept information because of their feelings rather than the facts."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eryn J. Newman, Maryanne Garry, Daniel M. Bernstein, Justin Kantner, D. Stephen Lindsay. Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2012; DOI: 10.3758/s13423-012-0292-0

Cite This Page:

Springer Science+Business Media. "Scientists discover the truth behind Colbert's 'truthiness'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808081334.htm>.
Springer Science+Business Media. (2012, August 8). Scientists discover the truth behind Colbert's 'truthiness'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808081334.htm
Springer Science+Business Media. "Scientists discover the truth behind Colbert's 'truthiness'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808081334.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) — Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) — Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Cost of Ebola

The Cost of Ebola

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 18, 2014) — As Sierra Leone prepares for a three-day "lockdown" in its latest bid to stem the spread of Ebola, Ciara Lee looks at the financial implications of fighting the largest ever outbreak of the disease. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins