Trusting the Source

Not everyone who gives out information is telling the truth. Pretty obvious, you think, and many times you are right. You probably don't take newspaper accounts of 400-year-old prophecies coming true seriously, even though you see them in print. But what about a documentary that purports to reveal the same thing? Can you be fooled by the delivery of the information, with fancy sets and a well-known actor as narrator, to believing what you might otherwise dismiss?

In order to trust the source of any information, you need to determine the agenda of the person or organization disseminating it. Are they simply trying to relay facts, or are they trying to get you to believe something or change your mind on a subject? It can be difficult to find a direct answer to that question; you can begin to get a clearer picture by looking into the following:

■ What are the author's credentials on this subject? Is he or she qualified to write on the topic based on background or education? For some subjects, it is acceptable to use information obtained from a hobbyist, self-proclaimed expert, or enthusiast, if you can verify it elsewhere. However, most factual information should be obtained from a reputable source. And since you need to verify anyway, why not use information, for instance, derived from Yale University's Thomas Hardy Association, rather than from John Doe's personal web page homage to his favorite writer?

■ Does the author document sources? Where do relevant facts and figures come from? If you are consulting print material, there should be footnotes and a bibliography that show the author's sources. On the Internet, you may also find such documentation, or sources may be docu mented by using links to other websites (see the section below on evaluating a website based on links). Even documentaries, to use a previous example, should cite sources in their credits.

■ Are the sources balanced and reputable? Pages of footnotes are meaningless if they simply indicate that the author used untrustworthy sources, too. Check some of the sources to verify that they are accurate and unbiased. For example, a book on gun laws that relies heavily on material published by the National Rifle Association is not as reliable a source as another book on the subject that uses a wide variety of sources representing both sides of the issue.

■ What do others say about the author (whether individual or group)? A quick way to check for opinions is to "Google" the author. Simply put his or her name (or the name of the group if there is no individual author) in the search box on The results can be revealing. However, remember to read them with a critical eye. If you are searching for someone with a radical or controversial view, you will probably find detractors. A handful should not deter you, but pages of negative information might.

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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