Voices from Russia

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Of Memory and Forgetting: How Facebook is Warping Human Recollection

Filed under: science — 01varvara @ 00.00
Tags: , ,


Memory is a notoriously imperfect thing, open to suggestion, amendment, and distortion over time… however, experts worry that social media is exacerbating this problem by blurring the line between individual and collective recollection. Given that human understanding of history shapes human thinking about the future, the results could be catastrophic. In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers note that while people often interpreted and misrepresented history for political ends, social networks are proving a powerful tool for shaping memory, and users need little prompting to conform to a majority recollection of an event, even if it is wholly erroneous. Harvard University memory psychologist Professor Daniel Schacter said:

Memories are shared among groups in novel ways through sites such as Facebook and Instagram, blurring the line between individual and collective memories. The development of internet-based misinformation, such as recently well-publicised fake news sites, has the potential to distort individual and collective memories in disturbing ways.

The study cites claims of terror attacks in Sweden by President Donald Trump as a key example. While purely fictitious, the story spread like wildfire on social media, and the study suggests some may still believe such a strike did occur, despite the claim’s quick debunking. Moreover, the fantastical attacks had real-world consequences, as Trump used them to justify a travel ban on the citizens of seven countries.

Undoubtedly, communication has a significant effect on memory. Research previously demonstrated that people conversing about the past could reinforce aspects of an event by selectively repeating them, and expurgate aspects by de-emphasising or ignoring them. Psychologists at Princeton University, led by Professor Alin Coman, also showed that you could especially induce a person to remember or forget aspects of a story when someone in their own social group relays it. Given 62 percent of American adults get the bulk of their information from social media, false or distorted information shared on social networks could travel far and wide indeed.

Positively, the rise of social media also made it possible for researchers to investigate how collective shape memories much more effectively. Even in 2010, monitoring communication in groups of ten or more required several rooms for private conversations, a large number of research assistants, and much time. Now, multiple participants can interact digitally in real time, with their exchanges tracked electronically, and the findings analysed by one or two human researchers. In 2016, a group led by Coman used social media tracking software to determine how the structure of social networks affects the formation of collective memories in large groups for the first time. The researchers fed information about four fictional Peace Corps volunteers to 140 participants from Princeton University and divided the group into fractions of 10.

First, they asked the participants to recall as much information as they could about the volunteers individually. Then, they took part in a series of three conversations… online chat sessions lasting a few minutes each… with other members of their group, in which they recalled the information collaboratively. Finally, they tried to recall the events individually again. The researchers investigated two scenarios… one in which the group formed two sub-clusters, with almost all conversations taking place within the sub-clusters, and one in which it formed one large cluster. Although people in the single cluster agreed on the same set of information, those in the two sub-clusters generally converged on different “facts” about the fictional volunteers. This comparison, Coman believed, revealed the importance of “weak links” in information propagation. These are links between, rather than within, networks… acquaintances, say, rather than friends… and they help synchronise versions of events held by separate networks, driving the formation of community-wide collective memories.

Timing is very important… Coman’s research showed that information introduced by a weak link is only likely to shape the network’s memory if the weak link introduces it before its members talk amongst themselves. Once a network agrees on what happened, collective memory becomes relatively resistant to conflicting information or alternative analysis:

Many consider the fact that information can freely circulate in a community is one of the most important and constructive features of open and democratic societies, but creating such societies doesn’t inherently guarantee positive outcomes. Nevertheless, there are two positive potential takeouts from the findings. For one, in some countries, jurors are forbidden to take any notes they have made during a trial into the deliberation room, a legacy of the historic belief that a group remembers more reliably than the individual does. In fact, using notes could protect jurors from retrieval-induced biases and group-level social influences. Second, it could assist with the transmission of crucial information to the public during emergencies. High-anxiety situations enhance retrieval-induced forgetting, so officials should draw up a short but comprehensive list of key points, make sure that all officials have the same list, repeat those points often, and monitor any flawed information that ends up circulating. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, for example, many people held the mistaken belief that being in the same room as an infected individual was enough to catch it. The best way to kill that rumour would’ve been to explain repeatedly and effusively that the only way to transmit Ebola is through bodily fluids. If one understands the nature of the false information, one can suppress it just by mentioning information that’s conceptually related, but accurate.

8 March 2017

Sputnik International



Sunday, 15 November 2015

15 November 2015. On the French Flag Overlay Idiocy…

01 sarah palin age of stupid


I saw this on FB:

I’d take this flag overlaying more seriously if anyone ever changed their Facebook picture (or even showed any interest) when an American drone wipes out a wedding party in Afghanistan. It truly is selective, manipulated, groupthink outrage. To quote somebody else, “Please, don’t tell me to drape my profile picture in the flag of France. Because two days ago you didn’t ask me to drape my profile picture in the flag of Lebanon; and the day before that, in the flag of Yemen or Syria; or two weeks ago, Russia; and in the months before that, Iraq, or Libya, or the flag of Palestine”.

Andreas Walsh

That says it all. I’m proud to say that Andreas is one of my FB friends. I’m humbled to be in his circle.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

27 September 2015. My Reply to Rightwing Drivel Posted on FB by John Whiteford

00 Zyuganov and HH Kirill. 14.09.14


Castro and Metropolitan Kirill Gundyaev


On Facebook, John Whiteford posted utter rot positing that the Church condemns socialism. I’m not kidding. Here’s my reply (which I posted on his timeline):

Here is Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all the Russias with his dear friend, G A Zyuganov, First Secretary of the KPRF. His Holiness has another dear longtime friend… Fidel Castro! HH has always opposed capitalism. He OPPOSES nearly every political stance that John Whiteford stands for. Mr Whiteford has to commemorate His Holiness, as HH IS the head of our Church. You may follow HH or you may follow John Whiteford. Do note that I attach an image to prove my point.

A case in point is the Church’s support for the DNR and LNR, with their creative Orthodox/Socialist synthesis. Mr Whiteford tramples on that with his support for the amoral satanic “Evangelical” popinjay Ted Cruz, who spat on our Arab bishops in Washington. Mr Whiteford supports the Republican Party, with its demonisation of Holy Rus and its support for the godless Uniate/schismo Ukrainian pseudo-state. In short, Mr Whiteford is full of it… don’t argue with sorts like that. They’re impervious. Block them… as I did. Now, he can’t post to my timeline or cause me any grief. Don’t waste your time with such ignoranuses. God has only given us a short spell to do good. Don’t waste it by fighting with the terminally pigheaded. As a friend of mine said of Whiteford:

He demands the last word in everything, even if it’s only “Yes”.

You can’t dialogue with those whose only wish is to impose a juvenile monologue, where they have the final say. Just be aware that Whiteford (and those like him) are NOT spokesmen for the Church (I, certainly, am not such!)… they not only lack the proper blessing from their bishop, most of them (like Whiteford) lack the proper Orthodox clerical formation to be able and competent spokesmen. Have a care… the times are evil, and not all clergy are straight. Keep it focused…


Thursday, 6 August 2015

6 August 2015. Stephen Freeman is Wrong in His Approval of Deceptive False Anti-PP Videos on Facebook

00 Cracked Facebook Logo. 26.10.13


I want to make one thing clear before I make my main point. No, I’m NOT “Pro-Choice”… however, I AM “Pro-Truth” and all priests who propagate lies are cheats and poseurs, and I say such openly. Read this. Stephen Freeman is a konvert priest without a proper Orthodox formation. His initial formation was in heterodox seminary, which means that he thinks in heterodox, NOT Orthodox terms. Furthermore, he’s a former Anglican, with all that implies… branch theory, in particular. He’s running about telling all and sundry on Facebook that the demonstrably false anti-PP videos that are credible. I’ve seen this. If he said such in private conversation, well, that’s one thing. If he said such on his blog, to his limited audience of clueless konvertsy, I wouldn’t mind that either. That’s just par for the course. That’s what that sort does. Leave them be, I say.

However, Facebook is a larger audience. As a priest of the OCA, any statement made by a cleric in good standing endorsing these deceptive videos implies that the OCA (and other Orthodox bodies) endorses these false and lying videos. As a priest incardinated in a diocese of the OCA, Freeman has a duty to confine himself to official Church pronouncements in public mass media or in social networks with a wide distribution. That’s why Reardon’s stunt about marriage licences was wrong… he presumed to make Church policy by his action. In like manner, Freeman is committing the bishops by his inane statements in a mass circulation venue. He should retract his statements and apologise. He did wrong… no priest can make such statements without clearing it with his bishop and with explicit permission. I know for a fact that most bishops are very careful with what their priests say on online social media.

It’s one thing for a laywoman like myself to post this or that… it does NOT commit the Church. In any case, I state explicitly that nothing I write is official Church policy… it’s my POV. Again, as an obvious non-cleric, I don’t think that I confuse anyone. However, Freeman is a priest; thusly, his duty is to keep his mouth shut in social media unless he has his bishop’s EXPLICIT permission. No, that isn’t “fair”, but that’s life in a hierarchical Church.

NO ORTHODOX CHURCH ENDORSES THESE FALSE VIDEOS. That’s what you can put in the bank. As I stated at the outset, I’m “Pro-Truth”. If you endorse lying and deceptive means, it corrupts the desired end, twisting why might have good under other circumstances into evil. Think on that. Freeman didn’t think things through… he should discuss such matters with a bishop or two before posting… it might save him a lot o’ grief. Pass me the jug… the world’s being gnarly again…


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