Believing In Tree Octopi, or How Gullible Are Kids (And You)?
by Perry Michael Simon on February 7, 2011
I wasn’t an especially gullible kid. I didn’t trust too much I read or heard unless it seemed plausible to me. But, then again, I didn’t have the Internet at my disposal.
Maybe that’s why a study by the University of Connecticut found that seventh graders mostly believe what they see on the Internet, even if it’s obviously a joke. Or maybe the methodology set it up to lead them to believe that what they saw was true. OR MAYBE THIS STUDY ISN’T TRUE, EITHER! DID YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? HAH!
Either way, this is what the study purports to show, according to a report on the site Life’s Little Mysteries: They took 53 of the best readers from low-income schools districts’ seventh grade classes and told them they would be helping someone else by evaluating whether a page on the endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus was true. The result: 87.5% thought the page to be “reliable,” and over half called it “very reliable.” And all of the kids who said it was unreliable came from one school where they’d been told to be suspicious of online information, and were given the Tree Octopus story as an example. So every kid who hadn’t been already told the page was a joke thought it was real.
And that raises the question of whether this is just a problem for seventh graders. After all, well… Wikipedia. How many times do you hear people citing what they read on Wikipedia as fact when you KNOW it isn’t accurate? How many pages do you see where you know the facts aren’t right, yet you suspect others aren’t aware of the inaccuracies? Do you trust what you read on the Internet? Do you trust what you read anywhere at all? Do you trust THIS VERY WEBSITE? HAH? DO YOU???
I think they’re probably going to need to do more studies on this. But you might want to discuss in the comments below whether you find what you see on the Internet generally reliable and true, generally bogus, or something in between.