The elusive tree octopus, image taken from here.
Reading the news this morning, I came across an interesting video interview with one of the authors of a recent study on how gullible kids are when reading the internet. In particular, the study evaluates how many students believed the parody tree octopus website. According to news releases about the study, a large number of kids in the study believed the tree octopus website was real. Furthermore, even after learning that the website was fake, many kids still advocated that it was real.
I find this study intriguing and would like to know more– does anyone know if there’s a published paper detailing the methods? Some quick google work didn’t turn up an obvious reference. If the paper is in an academic journal with restricted access, I can download it with my MIT library ninja skills.
I find this study intriguing, but like PZ Meyers I’m skeptical of the results of the study, at least the way the results are being interpreted as clear evidence of “the internet making kids dumber.” Perhaps it’s true that teachers need to refine their teaching techniques to help kids critically evaluate the sources of internet information, but I seriously doubt the internet is making kids dumber. Also, I’d like to see how the kids results would compare with adult results. From my experience (yeah, yeah… anecdotal, I know), kids are natural skeptics. For instance, it’s often more difficult to fool a kid with a magic trick than an adult.
Although, considering how many people believed in Paul the Psychic Octopus, perhaps it’s not surprising that people also believe in the tree octopus. They are cute little buggers, these imaginary tree octopuses.