William Ashton, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Coordinator, York College Research Pool

Director, York Collge Honors Program

York!
Department of Behavioral Sciences
3E-05, Academic Core Building
(718) 262-2699
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Don't Google!

click to see the cartoon

Example #1 - Bert the Muppet's Terrorists Ties

Closely exam this photo of a pro bin Laden demonstration in Pakistan.

bertLaden

Look just to the right of bin Laden's left ear. What do you see?

Bert, the Sesame Street Muppet!

Here's what happened.

A Pakistani printer was asked to make posters for the demonstration. He went to an internet search engine and typed in "bin Laden."

Many search engines return hits in order of their popularity -- that is, how often the site is visited. The printer choose the first image of bin Laden he found.

That image was from the Bert is Evil! site. This humorous site has pictures of Bert with notorious figures. And it was a very popular site!

Let this be an object lesson: you cannot quote information from the internet as fact. Information on the net may be unintentionally incorrect or, as in this case, intentionally incorrect.

(note: I'm providing no link to the Bert is Evil site because it contains a few jokes which are inappropriate for a webpage linked to by a CUNY web page. If you wish, find the site your self. But be warned - Bertisevil.com is not the site you're looking for - that's a porn site!)

Example #2 - Don't be someone else's learning experience.

First, go the the site Changingminds.org

Second, look around the site. Would you accept information from this site?

Third, in January of 2005 I found this page on changingminds.org

In response to this webpage, I sent an email to the site's owner

From: William Ashton, Ph.D. [mailto:washton@york.cuny.edu]
Sent: 23 January 2005 16:00
To: contactus@changingminds.org
Subject: error (no pun) on your website


Dear Changingminds.org,

On your webpage:

http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/group_attribution_error.h
tm

your description of the group attribution error is incorrect. The term
group attribution error specifically refers to Allison and Messick's
work (Allison, S. T. and Messick, D. M. (1985) The group attribution
error. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 21, 563-579) and not
the general issues of attribution and groupthink that your current
description suggests.

The group error occurs when a group make a decision which is far from
unanimous , but the majority decision rule was used. Afterwards,
perceivers will be likely to overestimate the amount of agreement.

Best wishes,

Bill

and received this response:

From: David Straker [david.straker@syque.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 3:41 PM
To: 'William Ashton, Ph.D.'
Subject: RE: error (no pun) on your website

Hi Bill

Very many thanks for taking the time to let me know of the error on the site. I sometimes go a bit to quickly. One of the reasons also for doing the site is to learn, and you have helped me here too.

Best regards

Dave

Fourth, don't trust me. Look at the abstract from Messick's article.

It took Mr Straker over 1 year after I contacted him to have a learning experience and update the page on the group attribution error! Just think how many Psych students used his wrong definition.

Example #3 - I'm not alone.

Fake professor in Wikipedia storm

A History Department Bans Citing Wikipedia as a Research Source

username: dr_ashton
password: psychology

Example #4 - Anybody can create a website

www.martinlutherking.org sounds like a great place to get information about Martin Luther King, Jr. Right?

No. It's run by a white pride hate group.

Example #5 - Satire may look real

How do burritos get to NYC? burrito.nyc.us.gov

Could you major in your current major at Miskatonic University?

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York College, a senior college of The City University of New York (CUNY), offers baccalaureate degrees in the liberal arts and sciences, accounting and business, communications technology, computer science, social work, teacher education and various health professions. York College is the only CUNY senior college offering majors in gerontology, biotechnology, information systems management and a BS/MS degree in occupational therapy. For more information visit: http://www.york.cuny.edu