Monday, February 23, 2009

Urban Myths

After most of you left on Friday, I grabbed Mike Terry and said we should look his e-mail right then and there.

So, we put a few keywords that roughly fit the e-mail he mentioned into and quickly found information that supported the points I’d made in class. I’d like to repeat this experiment in class today.

In the future, if you hear something about the macroeconomy that seems odd, there are other sites that collect and check urban legends like this: urban legends page, the AFU archive, and scambusters.

In macroeconomics, urban legends come up in two contexts.

First is innumeracy (just like illiteracy, but with numbers). If people can’t or won’t do the math for the sort of numbers we talk about in macroeconomics, then they are more open to manipulation by the unscrupulous.

The second context is related to critical thinking. Research on critical thinking shows that the problem when this doesn’t occur is not usually that people can’t think critically about an issue, but that they have certain issues for which they “turn off” their critical thinking ability. A broad term for that is “faith”. A lot of political issues boil down to faith, and when they do, there is a lot of room for urban myths: politically faithful Republicans will believe all sorts of nonsense about Democrats, and vice versa.

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