Myths

There is a sucker born every minute and they are using Google

There is a sucker born every minute and they are using GoogleAmerican circus entertainer P. T. Barnum is often credited with the statement "there's a sucker born every minute".  I was talking about another famous deputed phrase of P. T. Barnum a few months ago, "there's no such thing as bad publicity," in reference to Marketing 101 and how Pepsi succeeded. In my remarks about how Pepsi succeeded a photo that appears to show  P. T. Barnum with the quote "There's no such thing as bad publicity"  was attached to my posting.

Being an information geek I was curious to learn the origin of the photo of P. T. Barnum.  Doing a quick search of the image on Google quickly showed that the photo was not P. T. Barnum but famous psychologist Bertram R. Forer.

So if the image I think is P. T. Barnum is actually Bertram R. Forer, I ask Google for an image of P. T. Barnum. But now  I am confused, as I use Google to search on a photo of P. T. Barnum they look an awful lot like the same photos identified as Bertram R. Forer.

Bertram R. Forer's connection to P. T. Barnum

In 1948 psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave a psychology test to 39 of his psychology students. Similar to the P. T. Barnum statement "there's a sucker born every minute" Forer was looking to prove that when assessment statements are vague people read their own meaning into the statements. Basically Forer was trying to show that people are easily tricked or manipulated into believing vague things.
 

But Forer did not connect his theories to circus showman Phineas Taylor Barnum. The term "Barnum effect" referring to the the work of Forer was coined in 1956 by American psychologist Paul Meehl in his essay "Wanted A Good Cookbook".

You have access to much more information but understand less

You have access to much more information but understand lessI know from my personal perspective I probably read more now that I did before the internet. But is the quality of what I read any better, probably not.

I don't want this commentary to become an argument over politics, but the current political campaigns are good example of how the internet "news" has become as much noise as it news. It has created a new sense of reality.

The name calling and childish behavior by supporters of both candidates is amazing. It does not matter which candidate you say you support, someone will call you a childish name for supporting them. "Why are all the (insert name of the candidate you hate here) supporters so (insert negative attribute of person here)."

I dislike the mainstream news articles that allow comments. Every news event becomes a political debate. It always seems to turn into a matter of how the victim could be so stupid, they must be a (member of whatever political party you hate).

The above three paragraphs were the introduction to my answer on an online forum of the question, "What effect has the internet had on what it means to be an informed citizen?" I concluded the answer with my analogy of the internet as a mirror.

The internet is a collection of wires, silicon, and copper, it has no soul, it has no mind of its own. The internet doesn't take sides, it gives birth to both good and evil. The internet is our collective mind, it is our collective soul. The internet is just a mirror, a reflection of the people who use it, and together we have the responsibility to focus and form that reflection.

If you don't like what you see when you look into a mirror, what do you do? Some people break the mirror, others change what's being reflected.

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