Lots of people in the United States (and elsewhere) are pessimistic about their ability to distinguish the truth from falsehoods. This is perhaps unsurprising given the relentless attack on truth that the United States experienced during the previous presidential administration.
As one observer recently put it: “There’s so much information that’s biased, that no one believes anything. There is so much out there and you don’t know what to believe, so it’s like there is nothing.”
Given all the uncertainty, polarization, and misinformation people have experience worldwide recently, this is an understandable reaction. Still, it’s troubling. It is hard for individuals or societies to function well without reliable access to truth.
No single solution will fix all of such epistemic challenges. Still, I think we can make meaningful progress by broadening our focus beyond just who or what to believe, to consider when we should believe.
Sometimes answering the question “When should I believe someone?” is enough to help dispel a fog of confusion. The reason why is rooted in common sense: people are more likely to be honest under some circumstances as opposed to others.