Understanding the Depths of False Belief: Exploring Misinformation with Philip Fernbach | TEDx Talks


In his TEDxMileHigh talk, “Why do we believe things that aren’t true?”, Philip Fernbach explores the intriguing phenomenon of false beliefs, delving into the cognitive processes that lead individuals and groups to hold onto misconceptions. He challenges the common reaction of dismissing such beliefs as mere lunacy, emphasizing that as humans, false beliefs are ingrained in our cognitive processes. Fernbach highlights the societal consequences, especially in the age of fake news, and explores the delicate balance between individual ignorance and collective genius.

Discussion Points:


Why do people tend to dismiss flat-earthers as crazy, and what does this reaction reveal about our own assumptions?

  • Consider the psychological biases that lead to quick judgments and the impact of societal norms on labeling beliefs as “crazy.”

              Timestamp | 0:00 – 4:34


How does Fernbach argue that knowledge is not an individual possession but a shared concept?

  • Consider the idea that knowledge is collective and explore how this impacts our ability to solve complex issues.

              Timestamp | 4:34 – 9:35


In what ways does the study by Steven Sloman on fabricated scientific discoveries shed light on the contagious nature of understanding?

  • Examine the implications of feeling knowledgeable when surrounded by information, even if that understanding is baseless.

              Timestamp | 9:36 – 12:00


What are the dangers of expressing strong beliefs based on a false sense of understanding, as discussed by Fernbach?

  • Reflect on the potential consequences of assuming understanding without thorough verification, especially in the era of information overload.

              Timestamp | 12:00 – 14:45


In what ways does Fernbach challenge the misconception that ignorance is a flaw?

  • Explore how he reframes ignorance as a feature of the human mind and how collective genius can arise from individual ignorance.

              Timestamp | 12:00 – 14:45


What role does intellectual humility play in mitigating the impact of false beliefs, as suggested by Philip Fernbach?

  • Explore how acknowledging the limits of our understanding can enhance the quality of discourse and promote open-mindedness.

              Timestamp | 14:46 – 15: 32


What opportunities does Fernbach suggest for improving the quality of discourse amidst the prevalence of false beliefs?

  • Explore the importance of intellectual humility and openness to diverse perspectives in enhancing the overall quality of public discourse.

              Timestamp | 14:46 – 15:32


How can individuals and communities balance the need to take positions on issues with the recognition of their limited understanding?

  • Discuss the challenges of navigating complex issues while maintaining intellectual humility and avoiding the pitfalls of overconfidence.

              Timestamp |