A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information by Daniel J. Levitin

By Daniel J. Levitin

From The New York instances bestselling writer of THE geared up brain and this is often YOUR mind ON song, a primer to the serious considering that's extra helpful now than ever.

We are bombarded with additional info on a daily basis than our brains can process—especially in election season. it is raining undesirable facts, half-truths, or even outright lies. New York Times bestselling writer Daniel J. Levitin shows how you can realize deceptive bulletins, statistics, graphs, and written experiences revealing the methods mendacity weasels can use them.

it truly is changing into more durable to split the wheat from the electronic chaff. How can we distinguish incorrect information, pseudo-facts, distortions, and outright lies from trustworthy info? Levitin teams his box advisor into categories—statistical infomation and defective arguments—ultimately displaying how technology is the bedrock of severe considering. Infoliteracy capacity figuring out that there are hierarchies of resource caliber and bias that variously distort our details feeds through each media channel, together with social media. We may possibly count on newspapers, bloggers, the govt., and Wikipedia to be factually and logically right, yet they so frequently usually are not. we have to imagine seriously in regards to the phrases and numbers we come across if we wish to be triumphant at paintings, at play, and in benefiting from our lives. this implies checking the plausibility and reasoning—not passively accepting details, repeating it, and making judgements in line with it. Readers learn how to stay away from the extremes of passive gullibility and cynical rejection. Levitin's captivating, enjoyable, obtainable consultant may also help someone get up to an entire lot of items that are not so. And seize a few mendacity weasels of their tracks!


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There are three ways of calculating an average, and they often yield different numbers, so people with statistical acumen usually avoid the word average in favor of the more precise terms mean, median, and mode. We don’t say “mean average” or “median average” or simply just “average”—we say mean, median, or mode. In some cases, these will be identical, but in many they are not. If you see the word average all by itself, it’s usually indicating the mean, but you can’t be certain. The mean is the most commonly used of the three and is calculated by adding up all the observations or reports you have and dividing by the number of observations or reports.

Perhaps there were great fluctuations in the intervening years of 2007–2012; we don’t know. The smooth lines give the impression of a perfectly linear (straight line) function, which is very unlikely. Graphs such as this do not always tell the story that people think they do. Is there something that could account for these data, apart from a narrative that Planned Parenthood is on a mission to perform as many abortions as it can (and to let people die of cancer at the same time)? Look at the second graph.

What the ad agency behind these decades-old ads wants you to think is that the dentists prefer Colgate above and beyond other brands. But that’s not true. The Advertising Standards Authority in the United Kingdom investigated this claim and ruled it an unfair practice because the survey that was conducted allowed dentists to recommend more than one toothpaste. In fact, Colgate’s biggest competitor was named nearly as often as Colgate (a detail you won’t see in Colgate’s ads). Framing came up in the section on averages and implicitly in the discussion of graphs.

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