Four Moves and a Habit
Introduce Mike Caulfield’s “four moves and a habit” heuristic for quickly assessing sources encountered in daily life before spending time critically reading any one source, impulsively liking or sharing a source, or going down an endless rabbit hole to figure out what’s accurate. The moves are in order:
- See if a fact or claim has already been checked. If so, you may be done.
- Go upstream to either learn about the publication or the original source your item has summarized. Is it trustworthy or accurate? If so, you can stop here.
- Read laterally. Is your original source mainstream or on the fringe? Quickly see what others have had to say. If it’s confirmed by other reputable sources, you’re done.
- Circle back. If you find yourself going down rabbit holes or getting bogged down, start over with a different claim.
Don’t forget to also use the habit: check your emotions. If you feel affirmed, shocked, or angry, it’s tempting to spread bad information. This is when you really need to pause and spend a minute or two running through the four moves before you run with it.
See Clickbait, Bias, and Propaganda in Information Networks for our take on this heuristic (especially chapters 1 and 2) for more details and Caulfield’s Four Moves blog for examples you can use in class.