Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Cerebral Cortex—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The cerebral cortex is a wonderful thing.  It’s the gray matter in your brain that is the storage depot for long-term memory.  That it exists is why I still remember The Gettysburg Address and the Preamble to the Constitution that I had to memorize in 5th grade, thousands of song lyrics, the state capitals, and game show trivia from the '60s.  But did you know that if you receive the same correct or incorrect information repeatedly, you’re likely to believe that it’s all true?

Stephen Colbert coined the term ‘wikiality’ to describe this phenomenon--we continue believing misinformation, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, or in the face of common sense because “if enough people believe in a notion, it must be true”. Don't Tell Me Again The Web is full of so-called ‘information’, but much of what we read is not ‘factual’. 
Here’s the point:  it’s imperative for researchers such as yourselves to Google with a critical eye.  Who’s posting this stuff?  What are their credentials?  Are they historians?  Professors at well-known colleges or universities?  Scientists?  Museum curators?  Students?  Shopkeepers?  Or, worse yet, hate groups?  Is it the purpose of the website to sway the readers’ opinion?  What is their bias?  Is the information timely, or is there more recent data that’s better?  Of course, using our online databases is a safe way to know you’re getting accurate, timely information.  We pay fees for these resources each year, so take advantage of them, at school or at home.  Truth: Can You Handle It?
So, discerning readers, be skeptical when you get those emails with dire warnings, photos of people surfing tsunamis, and offers from Nigerian royalty.  Be wary of websites run by questionable characters.  Check out their authenticity on, seek out the truth, and don’t let your pesky cerebral cortex get in the way!
Mrs. Hodge

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