We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance. – John Archibald Wheeler
In today’s world of information overload, we can find ourselves going down a rabbit hole of research, and this is a great thing. The problem I have come across is that the more I research things, the more I realize how little I actually know. This doesn’t stop me from researching more, but it has meant I have questioned giving advice out to people since I am not a subject matter expert.
The Dunning-Kruger effect, plots this on an easy to understand graph:
The problem we find ourselves in with the information age is that there is just so much information out there available to consume. I live by the mantra to never stop learning, so this is a great thing, but it is becoming harder and harder to know who to believe in this internet age of social media, podcasts and talk heads who don’t have to provide science or evidence for their claims.
So much information
The funny thing with research is that we only have 24 hours in a day. Assuming we aren’t professional researchers, we could most likely never ingest all the information available in a reasonable amount of time. So we need to find a way to either condense the information we ingest or be a lot more selective with our reading.
A good place to start cutting is the mainstream media’s interpretation of studies. Look at the cover of any Men’s Health magazine: gets abs, build bigger arms, lose fat – all within 30 days. None of which is actually possible or realistic or necessarily ‘good’ for you. Another great way to cull the information is to look at the evidence they’re providing as proof of a finding. Did they study one person (your great Uncle Tom says squatting is bad because he has arthritic knees) or 90 people in a study conducted at a research institute? If it is a research paper, look at the abstract and methodology, as this will help give you insight into the robustness of the conclusions.
The more your read the more you come across contradictory conclusions. The fields of nutrition and exercise are rife with these occurrences. The only way to address this is to look at the evidence behind these conclusions and follow the one with better evidence. Don’t believe the hype or a successful marketing campaign. It is becoming increasingly harder to separate fact from fiction especially with the onset of social media and ‘internet specialists’, me included. One factor to look out for is if there is a problem that has arisen from research and there only one solution and your lucky enough to be reading the sales pitch for that product/sold.
There is a cost to everything we do, either in time or money. Reading this book has prevented me from reading another book, not because I couldn’t read it afterwards, but the 10 hours it took me to read something are 10 hours I couldn’t have done something else. So the more bad research we consume, the less time we have to consume good information and this isn’t to suggest that I recommend staying ignorant for the sake of staying ignorant. Rather I mean we should all keep reading and researching, because not only do you get better at comprehending research but the more good AND bad research you consume the better you become at distinguishing between the two and developing your critical thinking abilities.
Trust but verify is a great mantra to live by when hearing ‘experts’ discuss topics.
who can you trust?