In the most innocent interpretation, suggesting someone should ‘do their own research’ is a reasonable bit of advice. But in the superheated world of social media discourse, #DoYourOwnResearch is a spicy rejoinder that essentially challenges someone to Google the subject since they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. But Googling, social psychologist David Dunning pointedly notes, is not research. “The beauty and the terror of the internet,” he tells interviewer David Edmonds in this Social Science Bites podcast, “is that there’s a lot of terrific information, but there’s also a lot of misinformation and sometimes outright fraud.
“People often don’t have the wherewithal to distinguish.”
This distinguishing is an area where Dunning, a professor at the University of Michigan, does his own research.
While doing your own internet sleuthing isn’t toxic on its face, Dunning suggests that often “you don’t know when you’re researching your way into a false conclusion, and … you don’t know when to stop. The real hard problem with DYOR is when do you know when to stop: you go and you look at a couple of web pages, and ‘Well, you’ve learned something! Terrific!’ But you don’t know how much there is behind it that you still need to learn.”