India's worst pandemic- Viral misinformation explained through the Kerala elephant death episode

A dangerous virus is at large, and many of us may have been already infected- probably me and you. No, it is not the Corona virus causing the COVID-19 havoc around the world, it is viral misinformation. This virus has already claimed many lives and have already done some real significant damage.

What is viral misinformation?

It may seem too silly a word, but this is not a term coined by me. Organisations and corporations around the world have been trying hard to fight viral misinformation for several years now. Viral misinformation is any false information that convinces people about its authenticity. And many tend to transmit the misinformation, infecting many others. And within a very small fraction of time, it would have already infected a majority of the targeted population. Albeit all the efforts, viral misinformation is probably at its all time high around the world.

How does the misinformation originate and spread?

Viral misinformation strives by exploiting a few vulnerabilities of the human mind. These are very popular psychological aspects of the human mind, that if exploited correctly can trick the mind into believing a completely vague and incorrect information as legit.

[ Image: The elephant in water. Courtesy: Facebook Post ]

Let's take a running example of the recent public outcry over the elephant death in Kerala. The incident was definitely a terrible one, but how it was used as a tool against the people and government of Kerala is perhaps something that deserves to be classified as a text book example.

WYSIATI - What You See Is All That Is

Human mind inherently is tricked into anything it's fed with. Research has proven that to reject an idea (or information) requires much for cognitive effort than to accept it, and human mind is especially weak in identifying the gaps in information in order to reject it. Rather than flagging a limited information as incomplete, the human mind automatically constructs the best possible story with the limited information.