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Article

Mira Sotirovic

Journalism defined itself as a profession in opposition to sensationalism and propaganda at the beginning of the 20th century. The American Society of News Editors statement of principles was written to codify “sound practice and just aspirations” of journalism after the public learned how the press was complicit in misinforming and deceiving the American people during World War I. As part of a massive propaganda campaign to win support for the war, the government fed false information and misleading stories to the press to make the public see the war as they desired it to be seen. Most definitions of propaganda converge toward the idea of organized influence on group attitudes through manipulation of symbols for a desired purpose of propagandist. The ASNE 1923 statement of principles clearly differentiated journalism from propaganda by its processes (to inform and scrutinize) and its purpose (to hold power accountable). However, many times since then the news media have been often accused of unintentionally becoming one of the most effective vehicles of political propaganda. Journalism’s proximity to the political world, and at the same time its obligation to bring independent and impartial scrutiny to that world, creates a set of contradictions and opens cracks where propaganda can get a foothold. In the political world, truth is to a large degree subjective and irreducible to facts. Journalistic practices that equate truth to a collection of facts, without questioning of why these particular facts are chosen and how they are presented, introduce various biases that amount to propaganda. Subtle suggestions based on facts, and faulty interpretations that do not follow from facts make propaganda truly dangerous because it is hidden behind ideologies of a free and objective press. With the growing mastery of media technology, propaganda is becoming an even more formidable force, perhaps easier to detect but more difficult to combat.

Article

Timothy R. Levine

Much research has examined people’s ability to correctly distinguish between honest and deceptive communication. The ability to detect deception is useful, but many misconceptions about effective lie detection have been documented. Research on deception is especially informative because the findings of research often contradict common sense. For example, both folk wisdom and several social scientific theories hold that lies can be detected through the careful observation of nonverbal behaviors. Yet research shows that most of the nonverbal behaviors that are stereotypically linked with deception have less diagnostic value than presumed. The widely accepted conclusion from decades of research is that while people are statistically better than chance at detecting lies, people are poor lie detectors in an absolute sense, averaging just 54 percent accuracy. Poor accuracy findings hold across the biological sex of the sender and judge, adult age and occupation, various types of media, spontaneous and planned lies, and more and less potent motivations for lying. Research also finds that people are usually truth-biased—that is, people tend to believe other people more often than not. As a consequence of truth-bias, accuracy for honest communication is typically higher than accuracy for lies, a finding known as the veracity effect. Subsequent research has yielded promising findings suggesting various ways deception detection accuracy can be improved. Focusing on communication content, especially when understood in context, understanding the motives for deception, using evidence, and persuading senders to be honest all have been shown to improve lie detection accuracy in recent experiments.