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Information Cascade and the Spread of Fake Quotes

More likely than not, you’ve uttered a quote that was either never actually said or attributed to the wrong person. The reason for this is twofold. Often what is actually said is never as simple or elegant or beautiful as it sounds when polished a bit, and it may be edited a bit to include context. When you compare a famous quote with what was actually uttered, you can’t help but agree with the slight revision because it really just sounds better. For example, the actual quote uttered in Star Wars by Darth Vader was not “Luke, I am your father.” In actuality, it was “No, I am your father.” However, saying “No” instead of “Luke” provides little to no context, while the latter makes a little more sense when said plainly. In addition, Marie Antoinette never actually said, “Let them eat cake,” but it’s a humorous interpretation of the attitudes of French royalty towards the poor.

The second reason false quotes spread is because of the way they are received and sent forward. When you hear or see a “quote” that you identify with, you are quick to “retweet,” or “like,” or “reblog,” or “repin” it without fact-checking because you trust the people you received the information from. Thus, the information you receive and make your decision based upon is fundamentally flawed.

Reversing the information cascade is the difficult part. When researching for this article, I gave my friends a few example of quotes that were either misquoted or misattributed, and my information was met with a bit of outrage. In a chain of tons of people that believe on piece of information, getting them to believe and spread the truth is no small feat. Part of what enables this difficulty is how easy it is to gain false information, so think twice before you retweet a fake quote, as some of the most misquoted people include Buddha, Martin Luther King Jr, and Marilyn Monroe.



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