Gell-Mann amnesia effect

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Gell-Mann amnesia effect describes the phenomenon of experts believing news articles on topics outside of their fields of expertise, even after acknowledging that articles written in the same publication that are within the experts' fields of expertise are error-ridden and full of misunderstanding. The term was coined by author, film producer, and medical doctor Michael Crichton. He explains the irony of the term, saying it came about "because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have," and describes the term in his talk "Why Speculate?"[1] in which he says,

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward — reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

— Michael Crichton

The Gell-Mann effect is not a universal phenomenon, and some believe that there is increased distrust in news media when one notices errors in reporting.[2]


  1. ^ Michael Crichton (2002-04-26). "Why Speculate (talk)". Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  2. ^ "'I'm Not an Expert, But I Play One on TV.'". National Review. 2017-04-25. Retrieved 2018-04-10.