Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger. Resisting certain types of information and actors online requires people to adopt new mental habits that help them avoid being tempted by attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content. We argue that digital information literacy must include the competence of critical ignoring—choosing what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities. We review three types of cognitive strategies for implementing critical ignoring: self-nudging, in which one ignores temptations by removing them from one’s digital environments; lateral reading, in which one vets information by leaving the source and verifying its credibility elsewhere online; and the do-not-feed-the-trolls heuristic, which advises one to not reward malicious actors with attention. We argue that these strategies implementing critical ignoring should be part of school curricula on digital information literacy. Teaching the competence of critical ignoring requires a paradigm shift in educators’ thinking, from a sole focus on the power and promise of paying close attention to an additional emphasis on the power of ignoring. Encouraging students and other online users to embrace critical ignoring can empower them to shield themselves from the excesses, traps, and information disorders of today’s attention economy.”Anastasia Kozyreva, et al. “Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens.”
Current Directions in Psychological Science 0 10.1177/09637214221121570-
After some reflection, this is obviously true. Just as obviously, it lends itself to the Dunning-Kruger effect, where people with low ability to critically ignore, do the exact opposite, where they focus on “attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content” and choose to critically ignore content that would help with changing one’s worldview to something that is more adaptive.
Once you start thinking about it, and looking for these kinds of behaviors, it becomes a new lens to which to look at a lot of the features of our society. The preoccupation with sports, for instance, is focusing on attention grabbing content with little value. It’s true of conspiracy theories, fundamentalism and the beliefs of fanatics everywhere. Moreover, if we look to our own behavior, there are many areas where we do this ourselves. Is a preoccupation with storytelling in “cinema” really different than a preoccupation with sport? What, then, is of real value?
The inescapable conclusion is that vast majority of our activity and attention is spent on things we should be critically ignoring. The hard question: what should we be paying attention to?