How to tell if you are being manipulated? What are the means with which people aim to influence our thoughts and beliefs? How to form well-substantiated and justified beliefs?
This critical thinking module serves as an introduction to the manifold forms of manipulation through an analysis of the nature of pseudoscience as well as media headlines and social media algorithms, thereby providing students with tools to be able to see through, and critically scrutinize, different ways of deception or distorting the truth.
The first three sessions of the module are dedicated to a close analysis of the difference between science and pseudoscience through examples such as flat Earth theory, the anti-vaccination movement, and corporate-funded research. Then we will talk about the problem of how to frame and communicate scientific knowledge to the public through the media. Throughout the first four sessions, we will reflect upon what epistemic values characterize the scientific method in general.
The next four sessions are dedicated to the topics of political propaganda, media manipulation and advertisements. We will watch documentaries about how propaganda was born, discuss what exactly we mean by the word “propaganda” and learn how to debunk fake news and fake images. Finally, we will focus on how social media algorithms and commercials aim to engineer our behaviour.
Being part of a series of modules at Milestone dedicated to fostering critical thinking, the general aim of the module is to constantly make students reflect upon their internalized assumptions and methods and see whether they stand the test of thorough validation or need to be discarded as unjustifiable. Being able to see the underlying assumptions behind our practices and theories is the first step toward dreaming up new solutions to our problems — new possible ways of behaving and thinking.