Can false information be meaningful?

September 21, 2009

This question took me by surprise. Who would really consider false information useful? False information leads people astray, it can steer them in the wrong direction if they get two different views to answer the same question.

The logical side in me asks, what good would information be if it were false? I really had to think about this question.

Then, I thought of a couple of senarios where false information was useful.

First, consider a child, the child seems nervous and panics when you attempt to go in her room. She says “Don’t go in, there’s nothing in there”. The statement (information) is false, it is obvious by her reactions, but it did provide something meaningful to you. You learn that you SHOULD indeed go into the room, because something is going on that you need to know about. In this example, it is necessary to understand in advance that the information is false.

Second, lets return to my “cop show” example from last entry. Lets say, our cop has a witness in the interview room. The witness answers questions about a case and then is allowed to leave. The witness says that he was “ballroom dancing from 7 until 10 on the night of the crime”. That statement is information. Now, in the course of the investigation, the team learns that the witness lied about where he was on the night of the crime. Why would he state his whereabouts falsely? The information becomes important and meaningful. He obviously has something to hide. In this example, it is not necessary to know that the information was false at the beginning, but it was necessary to find out later.

So, my final answer? I believe that false information can be meaningful. However, I have to classify that and say that somewhere along the line, it must become apparent that the information is false. The reason that the person falsified the information then conveys the meaning.

I can’t think of any reason false information, that was not found to be false, would be useful. Can you?

2 Responses to “Can false information be meaningful?”

  1. Marius said

    Very interesting post. I think sometimes false information can be meaningful even when proven false, or when it is never found out whether it is true or false.

    For example, if your boyfriend finds out that one of your good friends was saying mean things about behind your back but when you ask him about it, he tells you no mean things have been said. Let’s say that he says this in order to protect you from the hurt.

    You may find out later that he was not truthful or you may never know. But in this case, false information was meaningful because it protected you from hurt.

  2. entrylevellibrarian said

    You are right Marius. What you described with your example is actually something I heard a lecture on a couple weeks ago. its very much like information avoidance and how some people really don’t WANT to know the things that they are searching for. I might have to do a follow up post on that sometime soon! Remind me!

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