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:

  1. See if a fact or claim has already been checked. If so, you may be done.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.