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How do we avoid being considered a fool?

How do we avoid being considered a fool?

There is an intention behind every communication, which often remains hidden. Science can (also) help uncover these matters, even if only by examining linguistic elements. How can you lie with a true statement? How do we recognize half-truths and misinformation?

21st. The 20th century has brought a renaissance of populism at all levels. With the help of social media, astonishing nonsense spreads more and more uncritically, from the flat Earth to the chips implanted in us with vaccinations. The myth of the Middle Ages returns, when faith trumps facts, because what is repeatedly slandered can only be true. And if our perception contradicts this, we would rather not believe our eyes, because they are clearly being deceived by the machinations of invisible forces.

As a logical consequence of this, the exact sciences lost their credibility. It is common that misconceptions, fake news and conspiracy theories make the individual, society, and even all of humanity vulnerable in a globalized world. But fighting it is an everyday task, and with nothing other than the tools of science – that serves that goal Hungarian Scientific Academy With a series of lectures for high school students.

Here, young researchers help you navigate a world full of lies, amidst an abundance of fake news and information. the A guide to facts in a post-truth world Videos from the series It can be viewed here,We present two topics in more detail without claiming ,completeness. What is the impact of our communications on the thoughts of the public and the reading public? How do we recognize valid reasoning, what linguistic and non-linguistic tools can lead to deceptive communication, “deception”, and when do these become outright lies?

The prototype of a lie

We make our daily decisions based on some kind of conclusion, and obviously these are not always true – even if someone wants to deceive us with a wrong conclusion or a lie. Dr. Judit Klepper One linguist talked about how examining linguistic elements can help avoid them: Conclusion or deception? was the title of his lecture.

Deduction means that we draw some kind of conclusion (conclusion) from all prior knowledge (premises), and the question is whether it is possible to draw a valid conclusion in each case. We will not go into the details of deductive, inductive and deductive conclusions (this is what the first part of the video below is about). The important thing is that the answer to the above question is: No. Moreover, in many cases, even the correct premises can lead to the wrong conclusion.

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The prototype of a lie is when the statement is false (objective lie); The speaker knows that what he said is false (self-deception); Or he wants to mislead the student with this expression (intent to deceive). The different variations fall under different provisions, just so we understand: If someone makes a false statement, but believes it to be true and does not intend to deceive, then we are talking about a falsehood, and so on from a good lie to the point where one can lie even with a true statement.

Misrepresentation is the worst

More subtle is misrepresentation, for example Judit Kleiber: “Anett and Tamas have recently started dating. Csabi is one of Anett's ex-boyfriends. One day Tamas asked Anett: Have you seen Csabi this week? Anett's answer: She's been sick at home for a week. That's true “But Annette visited him the day before.” There is neither objective nor subjective falsehood here, because what he said is clearly true, but the intention to deceive is equally clear. It is half the truth, withholding information, side talk, and its evaluation depends on the situation and the person. Why this devious method of deception?

Because we can say that I told the truth, and the fact that my partner inferred something that was incorrect is no longer my responsibility. If I didn't make a false statement, I didn't lie

– says Judit Kleber. But what is more important from the point of view of our topic is what can we do with half-truths and side conversations?

  • Let's get to know him. Doesn't answer the question, or speaks for an unreasonably long time, diverting the conversation.
  • Let's try to impose the true answer to the question. For example, Tamas could ask: Okay, Annette, but have you seen her this week? And if you get a vague answer, Annette probably has something to hide.
  • Let's find the hidden contents. For example, my friend went to the movies with another girl today. If that girl was his cousin, then this sentence is misleading.


What's going on? If this question were asked from Visegrád Castle overlooking the Danube, it would mean something very different than if the question was asked in the voice of an angry teacher as he entered the classroom. The same question has different meanings in different contexts, so an important framework for interpretation is the context itself. More precisely, its supporting and clarifying meaning, or on the contrary, because it can also be distorted – it introduces its subject Dr. Zuzana Schnell Cognitive linguist, communications researcher.

Context provides frameworks, clues, and perspectives for interpreting text, word, and scene. To understand this, he shows a picture in which a mother goose “walks” her chicks across the road. Who sees what it is? Presumably the teacher wants to learn the rules, the physicist how long does it take to get to the other side, the feminist why this task also falls to the mother bird, and the policeman will be curious to know why it is not done on a zebra. Perspective taking is extremely important for a person to be able to infer and interpret effectively as a conversation partner.

The key moment and cornerstone of a successful conversation is to be able to successfully deduce the speaker's intention

– says the specialist.

Collaborative conversation

Paul Grace The philosopher of language described conversation as a collaboration in which shared knowledge of the world plays a prominent role in order to communicate spontaneously, easily, and understand each other. He formulated four basic principles, called principles, used during collaborative conversation, the violation of which triggers inferences in the audience to try to understand the intended meaning.

  • Maximum quantity: Be optimally informative, i.e. neither too much nor too little. Example of an insult: “I'm going to have dinner with a woman today.” “Does your wife know about this?” “Of course it's the woman.” In this case, the speaker gave little quantitative information.
  • Quality Principle: Tell the truth! Don't say anything that is untrue, unfounded! Example: “I called you a hundred times, but you never called me back!” “99 times will be enough.” “Really, why don't you call me back?” The first question is unsuccessful here, it can be “joked” because it is incorrect, it violated the quality principle.
  • Maximum importance: Do not deviate from the topic. Example: “Okay, show me your mathematical thesis!” “When are we going fishing on Saturday?” A clear expression of intention to change the subject.
  • Situation principle: Be understood, do not make confusing statements. For example: “Can you not open the window again because I can't find my papers that I haven't stapled together!” “?????” Why do we speak indirectly? In order to mitigate criticism.
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Manipulative communication

While the possibility of inferring the speaker's intent is an important element of collaborative communication, the opposite is true for instrumental and manipulative communication, where focus and focus are elsewhere, and content appears implicitly unstated. The above viewpoints and narratives also appear in the news.

If we accept such a narrative, we will only be interested in what was born within this framework, and we will only accept as true news what is true in this perspective, in our conviction. This poses a risk that we will no longer be sensitive to problematic news or fake news. Means of influence:

  • It affects emotions, builds on pity, fear, anxiety, threats, or even indicates belonging to a group with the implication “everyone does this/that.”
  • An argument involving credibility, such as a reference to authority: “Mr. Director said that…”
  • Changing the subject, irrelevance: “Others are worse,” and the person changes the subject.
  • Violation of the quality principle: “What does the new colleague look like?” “It's a woman.”
  • Use of frantic words: “This is why food-starved Hungarians crowd the stores…”
  • Ambiguities and logical somersaults where the basic statement is true.
  • Demagoguery: The strong use of strong emotional expressions.
  • Demonization when we call Covid, for example, the Chinese virus.
  • Pointing to false authority: when we point, for example, to the fact that the professor read my book and really liked it, even though the professor is not a practitioner of the discipline we wrote about.

Zuzanna Schnell finally asked the question: Why does all this affect us? Because knowledge is power, information makes us feel safe, and we can find our way around the world, but lack of information leads to anxiety and a feeling of loss of control. Because of the latter, they can influence us with a lack of information or its perception. And let's not forget that there is intention behind every communication, which often remains hidden – which is why it is important to know what the linguistic tools of influence and manipulation are, and to think about whether we are living in an opinion bubble.

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