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(7,611 posts)
Mon Jan 3, 2022, 03:33 PM Jan 2022

The Dangers of Doing Your Own Research

There is an op-ed today in the New York Times about the Dangers of unqualified people who decide to research a topic and then come to believe they have expertise in the area. Worth the read:

In theory, perhaps. But in practice the idea that people should investigate topics on their own, instinctively skeptical of expert opinion, is often misguided. As psychological studies have repeatedly shown, when it comes to technical and complex issues like climate change and vaccine efficacy, novices who do their own research often end up becoming more misled than informed — the exact opposite of what D.Y.O.R. is supposed to accomplish.

Consider what can happen when people begin to learn about a topic. They may start out appropriately humble, but they can quickly become unreasonably confident after just a small amount of exposure to the subject. Researchers have called this phenomenon the beginner’s bubble.

In a 2018 study, for example, one of us (Professor Dunning) and the psychologist Carmen Sanchez asked people to try their hand at diagnosing certain diseases. (All the diseases in question were fictitious, so no one had any experience diagnosing them.) The participants attempted to determine whether hypothetical patients were healthy or sick, using symptom information that was helpful but imperfect, and they got feedback after every case about whether they were right or wrong. Given the limited nature of the symptom information that was provided, the participants’ judgments ought to have been made with some uncertainty.

How did these would-be doctors fare? At the start, they were appropriately cautious, offering diagnoses without much confidence in their judgments. But after only a handful of correct diagnoses, their confidence shot up drastically — far beyond what their actual rates of accuracy justified. Only later, as they proceeded to make more mistakes, did their confidence level off to a degree more in line with their proficiency.


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The Dangers of Doing Your Own Research (Original Post) Tomconroy Jan 2022 OP
Every stereotype has a basis in reality but in my experience doing my own research abqtommy Jan 2022 #1
However, The Issue Referenced In The OP... ProfessorGAC Jan 2022 #3
For many things, we do have to do our own research. Kaleva Jan 2022 #2
There's this saying I read in a book once Sympthsical Jan 2022 #4


(14,118 posts)
1. Every stereotype has a basis in reality but in my experience doing my own research
Mon Jan 3, 2022, 05:40 PM
Jan 2022

using multiple sources and making the best decision I can has saved my life.


(66,845 posts)
3. However, The Issue Referenced In The OP...
Mon Jan 3, 2022, 06:28 PM
Jan 2022

...seems that many of these "my own research" folks don't really know what research is.
Combing the internet looking for nuggets of information, misinformation, or disinformation that support their preexisting bias is not research. It's cherry picking convenience.
Wilfully ignoring the opinion of tens of thousands of experts & choosing only those confirmation bias aspects is quite the opposite of true research.
True research involves the risk of finding things that are counter to what one thought.
Therein lies the dangers mentioned in the piece.


(36,993 posts)
2. For many things, we do have to do our own research.
Mon Jan 3, 2022, 05:59 PM
Jan 2022

Years ago, I had a book titled "How To Read A Book". There are several ways to do so and one involved reading two or more books on the same subject.

"The last part of the book presents the fourth (and highest) level of reading — Syntopical reading — or reading two or more books on the same subject. By reading syntopically you are not concerned with understanding each book in all its details — in fact, you won’t read any of the individual books analytically (not at the present syntopical reading effort, at least). Here you are reading each book for what it may contribute to your own problem, not for the book’s own sake. Furthermore, you are not reading to find the truth or to establish your own voice — you would be only one more voice in the conversation. You are simply trying to understand the controversy itself, to establish the many voices you hear in a pure exercise of dialectical objectivity. This is a fantastic topic, which the authors have materialised in their greatest contribution to mankind, in my opinion — the Syntopicon, volumes II and III of the Great Books of the Western World . The reader is very much advised to check it out."



(9,622 posts)
4. There's this saying I read in a book once
Mon Jan 3, 2022, 06:45 PM
Jan 2022

It goes something like, "Show me a man who has read a thousand books, and you give me an interesting companion. Sit me down next to a man who has read three, and you present me with a dangerous enemy."

A little knowledge can be an incredibly dangerous thing, because it can give someone a lot of unearned confidence in their level of knowledge about topics. I mean, I know the Internet is pretty much Exhibit A for this sort of thing. Read one article, figure you know all you need to on the topic.

Part of the problem of social media and the Internet in general is how many people style themselves as informed. "I read a lot of news, so I'm informed." Ok, but what kind of information? From where? At what depth? Where are you getting it from? Are you following up, or are you just going with what you initially read to shape your opinion?

I admit, whenever I see a post like, "I get most of my news from DU," I make a sucking sound through my teeth. That is not informed by any measurement. And that's not a knock against DU. It'd be the same if someone got most of their knowledge from FB, Reddit, or cable news. You can't cast a line into a local pond and figure you know as much about the fish of the world as anyone else.

And when information is shallow - as so much of it in online and mass media is - then people tend to become the opposite of informed - they become actively misinformed.

One of my side hobbies on DU or Reddit or wherever, when I'm bored, is to go through something that's been posted, seek out sources, laterally read, and figure out the full story of what's being presented. Then crafting a response that's more accurate (and often somewhat different) than what's assumed to be true.

Always goes over well!

And there's always the, "I don't have time to read or watch or whatever what I'm seeing." Tch. If you have time to spread misinformation, you have time to check it.

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