Truth By Repetition or involved and critical instead?
“Whoever controls the media controls the mind.”
In our information-saturated world, mainstream media, including (digital) newspapers, news broadcasts, and social media, is a dominant force that shapes public opinion, moulds our perceptions, and often defines our understanding of truth. However, this influence runs more profound than mere information sharing. It extends to the theories of truth by Repetition (TBR), as studied by Unkelback and colleagues in 2019, revealing the power of repeating information in shaping our perception of truth.
Unkelback’s research illustrates how repeated exposure to information makes it valid, reliable, and trustworthy in our minds.
Mainstream media outlets, politicians, and other stakeholders wield this power effectively to influence public opinion and, ultimately, their behaviour. For example, in the coverage of significant events, we see headlines and soundbites echoed incessantly across various platforms, blurring the line between fact and fiction and affecting our understanding of reality.
One-sidedness in media reporting often results from intentional editorial decisions and the demands of the 24-hour news cycle. Media organisations striving for profitability and viewership may present news sensationally and polarise it, distorting our perception of reality and undermining the integrity of the information we consume.
Deception in media takes various forms, from purposeful manipulation to inadvertent misinformation. Misleading headlines, out-of-context quotes, and omitting crucial information can lead to a distorted version of events.
In a world where mainstream media plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion, understanding the impact of repetition on our perception of truth is essential. Unkelback’s research underscores the influence of repeated exposure to information in shaping our beliefs and possible actions. Simultaneously, fostering a critical mindset among news consumers, encouraging cross-referencing of information, and questioning presented narratives are vital in today’s information age. Media literacy, which involves recognising persuasion techniques and identifying biased reporting, is indispensable.
Mainstream media can force positive change, promoting transparency, accountability, and informed citizenship. However, realising this potential requires consumers to know the mechanisms and actively discern truth from repetition, one-sidedness, and deception. Developing critical thinking skills becomes the linchpin for navigating the complexities of media influence and understanding the nuances of reality.
Thu Oct. 12 2023 – Xavier Y. Zeilinga, MSc