Many still believe our students’ greatest weakness is gullibility; that we need to cultivate in them more suspicion of what they read. We actually find the opposite. In practice, we find that students have a moderate distrust of most everything they see online, in a phenomenon we call trust compression. On a trust scale of 0-4, students will rate a false prompt a 1. They’ll rate a true prompt a 1. They’ll rate a mixed, nuanced prompt a 1.
The implications of this orientation towards truth are far more ominous than mere gullibility. As scholars of totalitarianism have noted, the breeding ground of authoritarian movements is not belief, but cynicism. In a world where nothing can be known and all producers of knowledge are seen to be compromised, there is no truth, only power.
Michael Caulfield on distrust.
This is from a longer article about how to address misinformation. It’s mostly aimed at educators but dismantles three “myths”—“people are too gullible”, critical-thinking-as-panacea, “we just need more facts”—about misinformation in a way that’s valuable for everyone.