Speaker focuses on critical thinking to combat misinformation
Cailin O’Connor will present the 2022 Fram Signature Lecture
Conflicting information about the safety of vaccines and how viruses spread in the community has created doubt, confusion, and debate during the global COVID-19 pandemic. But scholars are looking at how critical thinking techniques can help manage misinformation.
Cailin O’Connor, a professor in the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science at University of California, Irvine, and co-author of The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread, will be this year’s featured speaker for the Eugene H. Fram Signature Lecture in Critical Thinking, in collaboration with RIT’s College of Science. Her presentation, “Thinking Critically About Pandemic Misinformation,” will be held 4-5 p.m. Sept. 27 in RIT’s Ingle Auditorium, Student Alumni Union. The presentation is free and open to the public, and there will be a light reception after the lecture.
O’Connor’s presentation will focus on the ways that misinformation can spread and be accepted, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She will then address ways to combat misinformation and learn from it. According to experts, the pandemic showed how fast different ideas can spread through social media, conversations, and other channels as people tried to understand the unfolding events. O’Connor will discuss the factors and processes that cause misinformation to gain traction.
“Scientific miscommunication is a huge deal for us,” said Andre Hudson, interim dean of RIT’s College of Science. “One of the reasons why it’s important is because, as scientists, we typically focus on dissemination, not communication. When I write a grant or I want to communicate my scientific discovery, I’m really communicating to a very, very narrow group of people. So I really don’t think about communicating out to the layperson or to the masses for them to understand. And if it’s not communicated in a way that makes it accessible, the individuals that are responsible for funding science and making policy on science won’t understand it.”
Jennifer Schneider, the Eugene H. Fram Chair of Applied Critical Thinking in Academic Affairs and a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management and Safety, believes that if we are going to be a creative, technological force in the community, we have a responsibility to do it correctly.
“Critical thinking skills can always be better because information is coming from so many sources. We’re using it in so many ways, so we have to use our investigative, evaluation, and problem-solving abilities to ensure we are informing ourselves and others with quality knowledge. This is hard work, but so important,” she said.
The annual Eugene H. Fram Signature Lecture in Critical Thinking is part of the campus-wide Applied Critical Thinking initiative, which integrates critical thinking improvement in classes and community life and promotes it through events. The Eugene H. Fram Chair was founded a decade ago through a donation from an RIT alumnus who wished to recognize the impact of Eugene H. Fram, who taught at RIT for 51 years and was a chair in Saunders College of Business.