Manipulation – From Pseudoscience to Commercials

2020-2021 Summer
Skill Development

How to tell if you are being manipulated into believing a lie? What are the means with which people aim to influence our thoughts and beliefs? How to form well-substantiated and justified beliefs?

This critical thinking module serves as an introduction to the manifold forms of manipulation through an analysis of the nature of pseudoscience as well as rhetorical devices used in propaganda or commercials, thereby providing students with tools to be able to see through, and critically scrutinize, different ways of deception.

The module is divided into two parts: the first four sessions are dedicated to a close analysis of the difference between science and pseudoscience through the examples of flat Earth theory, the anti-vaccination movement, and corporate-funded research. The first part concludes with a discussion of what characterizes the scientific method in general. During the second part of the module, we will focus on tropes, metaphors and stylistic devices used in political speeches, propaganda, historical myths, and commercials, while also being ever on the lookout for logical fallacies.

Being part of a series of modules at Milestone dedicated to fostering critical thinking, the general aim of the module is to constantly make students reflect upon their internalized assumptions and see whether they stand the test of thorough validation or need to be discarded as unjustifiable. Being able to see the underlying assumptions behind our practices and theories is the first step toward dreaming up new solutions to our problems — new possible ways of behaving and thinking.