Gullible Factor

Speaking to a group of high schoolers, I once said, "people are stupid." When I saw their mouths drop open, I added, "individuals are smart, but if you bring individuals together, they're stupid."

This is how people are convicted regularly by juries when all the evidence says they couldn't have done it, and contrarily are set free when all the evidence says they're guilty as the day is long. We watch those episodes of 48 Hrs and Dateline and say to ourselves "that jury was stupid. How could they not have seen the truth?"

The truth of the matter is that people are very gullible. My job has illuminated that for me ten-fold. I respond to letters and e-mails all day where people ask very dumb questions based on the chain e-mail their best friend's younger sister's boyfriend's uncle's third child sent them.

I'm dumbfounded every time. In our day and age we can find information on anything. Really. And we also all know that everyday someone forwards on a non-factual e-mail. Hence the creation of Snopes (and I sure do use snopes all the time). And yet we read ridiculous stuff in our e-mail inboxes and we run with it.

This epidemic doesn't stop with e-mails. Phone calls, text messages, conversations. Because we heard it, we trust it to be true. Perhaps there was a time when you could believe everything you hear, but in 2009, good people, that's just no longer the case.


In all my years of researching and writing papers, I've never been able to turn in anything, call it factual, and have no supporting evidence. Hell, even in the blogosphere, we link stuff to prove our points. We reference things constantly. Instinctively we know things need sources so why don't we apply that to other parts of our lives?

I'm not saying we all need to turn into Skeptical Sallys, but take what you hear with a grain of salt. Do a little investigative research before you repeat it or at least have the good sense to acknowledge that the hard-to-believe, foul, or otherwise sketchy stuff you're about to repeat, at any given time, may not be true.


Shantae said...

God I love your blog. Excellent post and I agree with you 100%. People always allow their IQ's to drop pending on comfort and/or acceptance.

Some people just don't want to appear apart from a certain group of people. Some just don't want to have to argue. Some just go with whatever's easier to believe. Although! I'm starting to question whether it really is the fact that they're dumb or that they're too lazy to discover the truth. But maybe that's also one in the same?

Keith said...

Great Post...My Brother and Sister in law send me more e-mails with conspiracy theories on them than you can imagine. They believe that
stuff and listen to every crackpot with a wild theory about damn near everything. I don't even argue with them anymore.

A.Smith said...

Shantae- I think it is one in the same. I think people who don't make the effort to double check questionable information are lazy and dumb. I guess, though, the real problem comes in when you start to repeat that information without checking it.

I also find people who pretend to want to check the information, but have truly already decided they believe it and are really just looking for someone to co-sign the ridiculousness.

Keith- Thanks. I don't argue in general. I'll offer up evidence for inaccuracy of a point, and I say you can take it or leave it. I've had one too many arguments with idiots. My patience in that area is shot.

Dafonzarelli said...

Your definately on to something here Mizz A.SMith.

I dont know how you find a way into my brain but I had already picked my "Word of the Week", for next week, to be synergistic(I'll be as brief as possible).

True, people tend to be more intelligent as individuals.

When random persons are assembled together they do tend to become inertly stoopid.


When the right mixture of persons are assembled then we get a synergistic, or conglomerative, effect.

Well, I'll stop here and you can read the rest Monday...

A.Smith said...

You're so right about having a good mix of people. That's why I'm serious about who I surround myself with and who I let influence me. The right mix could propel me to world leader status, the wrong mix could have me homeless... you know. :)

glennishamorgan said...

I hate to admit it but, I am gullable. My friends get me with jokes all of the time. I've also gotten "GOT" on a few occasions because I wanted to HELP. :-(

A.Smith said...

I mean it's one thing to fall victim to a joke or two, but if I send you an e-mail with some outlandish stuff in it like "aliens have landed and are sucking people's brains out. Don't go to the grocery store because that's where they are..." you won't believe that right? Some people will and that's a problem.
I won't fault a person with a good heart. :)

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