Popular misconceptions paraphrasing exercise

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1 Summary

For this assignment, you will read an article that addresses reasons why people believe in misconceptions, or how to address these problems, e.g., dissuading people from believing them, or preventing their spread. You will then record a short video that summarizes the main points of the article that are relevant to your topic, and explain how these ideas might apply to your topic--e.g., how the ideas from the article might help explain the popularity of your misconception topic, or how to deal with the problem--or perhaps why the ideas from the article might not work so well.

2 Sample articles

Below are some articles about why people believe in conspiracy theories and other false beliefs. These are secondary sources, but fairly professional. In these articles, identify some parts or information that might be relevant to your paper project. Verbally summarize of the relevant information, and then expand on your paraphrase by adding and developing your own thoughts about how it applies to your topic. Also be sure to mention the article as a source for your project. These articles can be helpful for a better analysis of the problem, or for possible solutions. If you find a good article that is not listed here, that may be okay; please email me the link and check with me.

  1. Why Do People Believe Things that Aren’t True?, Psychology Today
  2. Scientists discover the reason people believe in conspiracy theories, The Independent
  3. Why Debunking Myths About Vaccines Hasn’t Convinced Dubious Parents, Harvard Business Review
  4. Who believes in conspiracies? New research offers a theory, EurekaAlert.com
  5. Secret success: Equations give calculations for keeping conspiracies quiet, The Guardian
  6. 5 Reasons Why People Stick to Their Beliefs, No Matter What, Psychology Today
  7. Do the spirits move you? (psychics, paranormal), Psychology Today
  8. Flat earth conspiracy theories, CNN.com
  9. Why we can't ignore conspiracy theories anymore, Time.com
  10. Why do some people believe in conspiracy theories?, Scientific American
  11. Why do so many people believe in conspiracy theories?, Time.com

Additional articles, e.g., on how science and health topics are misreported online or in the news media.

  1. https://www.chronicle.com/article/When-the-Media-Get-Science/150763 When the Media Get Science Research Wrong, University PR May Be the Culprit], Chronicle of Higher Education
  2. Study: half of the studies you read about in the news are wrong, Vox.com
  3. How the media warp science: the case of the sensationalised satnav, The Guardian
  4. This article won't change your mind, The Atlantic
  5. The Strange Origins of Urban Legends, The Atlantic
  6. Trump Needs Conspiracy Theories, The Atlantic
  7. How do scientists become cranks and doctors quacks?, Science-Based Medicine
  8. Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science, The Atlantic
  9. Are All Weight Loss Doctors Quacks?, Science20.com

The following are more academic, research-based articles from academic research journals; use these only if you really understand them.

  1. Belief in conspiracy theories: Basic principles of an emerging research domain, European Journal of Social Psychology
  2. Understanding Conspiracy Theories, Political Psychology
  3. Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion, American Journal of Political Science
  4. Effective Messages in Vaccine Promotion, Pediatrics
  5. The psychology of conspiracy theories, Current Directions in Psychological Science
  6. Nothing but the truth: Are the media as bad at communicating science as scientists fear?, EMBO Reports
  7. Neuromyths in Music Education, Frontiers in Psychology

A brief example

... People struggling with obesity or being overweight often suffer from low self-esteem and body image problems, which are only made worse when family members or classmates tell them that they simply need to lose weight. Such comments are not only unhelpful, but add to the stress and anxiety that they feel about themselves. Overweight people have come to accept a negative view of themselves, and society has also fallen for misguided ideas about overweight people, including negative views about overweight people being lazy, irresponsible, or morally deficient. However, psychology may offer us one way of dealing with these misperceptions. Graves (2015) describes the power of narrative, that is, a story that believers construct, which includes not only an historical account of how a conspiracy or hoax was supposedly carried out, but also an explanation of facts and events in their perspective. That is, the narrative explains how the conspiracy accomplished certain events, or why certain events are due to the alleged conspiracy. The narrative also provides conspiracy believers a sense of special understanding of what has happened and why, in their world. It is a psychological conceptual framework that provides them a sense of meaning and understanding. Graves suggest that the power of the narrative can also be turned around and used to educate the public about scientific truth and reality, for example, regarding vaccinations. This strategy can also be applied to correcting incorrect perceptions of overweight people.

In advocating for the dignity of overweight people, some alternative approaches can be taken. Friends and family members of overweight persons can be supportive by setting aside their negative stereotype and the negative explanations they have assumed for why the person is overweight. They can talk to the overweight person about specific negative beliefs that the overweight person has about herself/himself, and the negative messages s/he has been told, from outright fat-shaming to more subtle statements, e.g., that the person needs to try harder to lose weight. Friends and family can communicate their understanding to the overweight person, and reassure the person that s/he is not lazy or morally deficient, and that s/he has a legitimate health condition. Regardless of that person became overweight, s/he has succumbed to a health condition that is difficult to overcome, which is a difficult situation that requires a more complex approach, including emotional support and positive lifestyle changes. Through conversations, friends and family can help to develop a more positive narrative about overweight people, and can help overweight people to develop more positive and realistic narratives about themselves. Non-overweight people can also stand up for overweight persons when others gossip or talk negatively to overweight people or about overweight people.

Specific elements of a more positive narrative may include the following messages. The overweight person may have developed unhealthy eating habits due to some form of stress. Experiencing fat-shaming, teasing, or condescending messages (like "you need to lose weight" or "you just need to try harder to lose weight") only adds to the stress, making it even harder to lose weight. Once the person has become overweight, it is very difficult to lose weight, especially if other emotional or life issues are not dealt with. It is not because of laziness that s/he is overweight and cannot lose weight. The person will find it easier to lose weight if s/he feels accepted or if s/he can deal with the sources of stress or depression in his/her life. When these messages are connected with a specific person (and his/her life or personal characteristics), this can form a more positive narrative - an explanatory story of how the person might have become overweight, the kind of person that s/he is, and how s/he might someday achieve better health.

3 See also

3.1 References

3.2 Other links