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Reflecting carefully upon what we read

02 April 2024
Volume 29 · Issue 4

For those who read or listen to the traditional news media, the overwhelmingly negative messaging about the state of the UK and its constituent parts, as well as the world in general, is striking. This reflects the adage that ‘bad news or unusual events sell papers’; whereas the opposite is true for everyday events, that is, they do not result in the same level of readership and therefore, news sales. However, this apparent negative bias or emphasis on unusual events can cause despondency and extinguish hope and optimism, even while there are good things happening in the world. For example, there have been remarkable improvements in life expectancies worldwide prior to the COVID-19 pandemic disruption to all health systems, and global infant mortality and malaria continue to decline (World Health Organization, 2023).

In his award winning book ‘Factfulness’, the Swedish epidemiologist Hans Rosling (2018) has argued that our ignorance of facts is not due solely to portrayals in the media but due to a lack of critical thinking and skepticism of the evidence, and a reliance on intuition which yields an overdramatic worldview. In other words, our evolutionary development has encouraged our brains to come to swift conclusions without much thinking to avoid immediate dangers, as, in the past, only hearsay and dramatic stories were the source of news and useful information. Every day we are bombarded with lots of information which is beyond our mental capacity, so it is functional to filter what is absorbed.

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