I am going to use the neutral term communication to cover the transmission of information from one person to another. This may be spoken or written information, or perhaps communications transmitted by other means. We do not have a special term for information that is correct, although we have special terms for information that is incorrect, misinformation, and for information the is deliberately deceptive, disinformation.

Below is a mind map showing these relationships. After the diagram, I will expand a bit on these ideas.

1 Information

Some times communication contains true assertions. This can happen in at least two ways:

  1. Logical truth
  2. Coincidental truth

Some true assertions are arrived at correctly, logically, reasoning from evidence. If the premises are correct, and the logic is sound, then the conclusions are supported by reason.

Some true assertions are arrived at by chance, guess work, or whim. They are not arrived at from true premises and logical reasoning. Although the conclusions are true, this is only a coincidence.

2 Misinformation

Some times communication contains false assertions, but not outright lies. This can happen in at least these ways:

  1. Poor logic
  2. Mistaken evidence
  3. Incorrect premises
  4. Clinical delusion
  5. Confabulation

Poor logic means that even if the premises are true, the conclusions do not follow because the logic is shaky. If the premises are false, you will not have a logically supported conclusion either.

On the other hand, with coincidentally correct assertions, it does not matter if either the premises or the logic are shaky, you get a true conclusion that is not justified.

Evidence requires interpretation. Sometimes, this is straight forward, but frequently it is not. So, conclusions based on suspect interpretations of evidence are of course also suspect.

Incorrect premises can not produce correct assertions through logic. Sometimes our premises are articulated explicitly, and sometimes they are really left ambiguous. In either case, if they are wrong we can not reach a correct conclusion by reasoning from them.

Clinical delusion will result in an inability to think coherently and consistently. It is not likely to lead to logically supported assertions.

Confabulation is another pathological condition where people come up with fact free explanations for events in order to interpret life experiences, to answer questions. It is not deliberate lying, but results in inadvertent lies.

3 Disinformation

Disinformation is deliberate deception. It comes in at least three varieties:

  1. Propaganda
  2. Recreational lies
  3. Lies and evasions of convenience

Governments, organizations, businesses and individuals engage in deliberate deception all too often, in order to gain an advantage at the expense of others, or to cover their own misadventures. It is called propaganda when done by governments and organizations, advertising when done by business, and lies when done by the rest of us. In any case, it generally puts the recipient of the disinformation at a disadvantage, and sabotages trust if found out.

Recreational lies and hoaxes are common among people who take delight in duping or gas-lighting others. It takes a certain amount of malevolence, narcissism, Machiavellianism, sociopathy or even psychopathy to engage in this activity. Online trolls are one aspect of this. Hoaxers are another. There are just far too many who delight in spreading bull excrement.

Lies and evasions of convenience are common. People do this both deliberately and reflexively, to get themselves out of immediate trouble or socially awkward situations, or to avoid giving offence. Some of these are classed as “white lies.” They can often backfire. Children do this all of the time to avoid negative consequences. Adults may not be that much different. Such lies are often discovered, reduce trust, and may anger others. Short term gain and long term pain may be the real consequence. In situation comedies, it has been the norm to create entire episodes around such lies and their outcomes.

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