Whose Expertise Do You Believe?

Expertise Puzzle Showing Excellent SkillsMy expertise spans several dimensions. So does yours. Professionally, I’m an expert in many aspects of management and product development.

Personally, since I’ve spent so much time in physical therapy over the years, I know what kinds of PT tend to work for me. And let’s not forget my vertigo. I’m an expert in vertigo. (I would love to not be an expert there!)

However, I am not an expert in these areas:

  • Epidemiology (causes, distribution, and control of diseases). As a layperson, I understand the bare minimum of how diseases spread and what we can do to reduce the spread.
  • Immunology. That means that when my doctor tells me it’s time for a vaccine, I take it.
  • Psychology. I admit, sometimes people’s reactions puzzle me altogether.

In these areas, I am totally fallible. I might even be fallible in my areas of expertise. (Yes, I continue to learn from my clients.)

Because I know I’m fallible, I tend to research areas I don’t know. Especially if I hear rumors.

When I hear rumors, I check with Snopes. I recommend you do, too.

Some of my friends and colleagues believe several pieces of misinformation about the COVID vaccines. I suggested they read 6 Important Truths About COVID-19 Vaccines. Much of that information is also on the CDC site.

However, these nice people don’t believe Snopes or the CDC. They believe their expertise or that of their friends—not the real experts.

That’s one example. I’m curious about who these people choose to believe.

How Do We Decide Who to Believe?

My friends and colleagues are rational humans. Rational people can still believe misinformation. I wonder if some of their decision-making arises from Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Specifically, prospect theory and loss aversion. We perceive the likelihood of a problem as greater than the actual probability of that event.

For example, imagine you’re a woman in her early thirties. You’ve waited to have a baby and you’re ready. Now, you hear a rumor about the vaccine—it could affect your fertility. (NO, IT WON’T!) Do you take the vaccine, with all your friends warning you about your fertility? Or, do you choose to wait and let everyone else give you herd immunity?

Your friends mean well. They read all kinds of things on the internet. Maybe not Snopes or the CDC, but they try to educate themselves.

Who do you believe? Your friends, who know and love you? Or some other people you don’t know? And you’re pretty sure they don’t love you? And who are fallible?

I suspect this is the real problem.

We are more likely to trust our friends who love us than the (fallible) experts.

As experts learn, they change their best advice. I certainly have professionally. My physical therapists have, too. We continue to learn.

Here are ways I’ve used to decide who to believe:

I do know this: We can’t trust or believe everything we read online. That’s why we need to decide how to decide whose expertise to believe.

That’s the question this week: Whose expertise do you believe?

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