Fact-Checking Ourselves

Fact checking. Information Literacy. Research. To a librarian, these words and phrases mean essentially the same thing.

Psychologists have been studying the way humans think and why we do what we do in all kinds of situations – from conflict resolution (or lack thereof) to shopping trips to politics – for a long time, both in the lab and in real life. They have found that subtle biases affect the way we interact with information at all levels. Our biases affect what information we take in when learning something new, who we trust and what information we choose to surround ourselves with in the first place, and, ultimately, what we do with the information we have taken in – in both simple and complex situations. Do you understand how your own mind works?

Check out the books below to learn more, along with advice on how to sort through what’s true, what’s partly true and what’s false in the things we know to be true - whether they’re things we have learned ourselves or things others have taught us.

Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

This book breaks the thought process down into two systems – one a faster, intuitive and more emotional response system and the other a slower, deliberating and more logical system – and explains how these two systems shape the way we understand and respond to information.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - Malcolm Gladwell

This book focuses on the decisions that people make in what seems like an instant and why some people are better at making good choices in those split-second decisions than others.

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You - Eli Pariser

Pariser looks at how sites like Google and Facebook customize results for the individual user based on what they think that user is most likely to click on and how this practice can strengthen biases and keep people from other information.

Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload - Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

Kovach and Rosenstiel examine how journalists think and try to get at what’s true, to help readers better understand and navigate today’s Internet news sources.
The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives - Shankar Vedantam
This book examines the cognitive and emotional processes that occur in the unconscious part of the brain, how those hidden responses can be manipulated without conscious awareness, and what individuals can do to compensate for their blind spots.

There are also many great resources here at Fairfax County Public Library that you can use to learn about new subjects and viewpoints and conduct your own fact-checking research. A few that we recommend include:

The Facts on File Guide to Research – Jeff Lenburg
This book explains how to do thorough and accurate research using general research methods and both physical and digital information resources. It includes detailed lists of resources and how to properly cite sources.

The Opposing Viewpoints Series

The many books in this series cover a large quantity of controversial topics, offering both pro and con opinions for each side, selected from respected sources.

The Very Short Introduction Series

The pocket-sized books in this series offer a thorough but short and readable introduction to many different, often challenging, topics.

CQ Researcher [Online resource] Use your Fairfax County Public Library card to login to this searchable collection of articles on current issues. Articles include resources for further research, including a pro/con feature.

-Denise Dolan & Sarah Souther, George Mason Regional Library

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