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Gell-Mann amnesia is Michael Crichton's rather arbitrary name for a very specific cognitive bias. Namely, he noticed (and discussed with Murray Gell-Mann, hence the name) that when he was reading the news, he was often very critical about articles in areas he understood well, and uncritical about areas he knew little about. This gave him reason to believe that he was probably being frequently misled when reading outside his area of interest.

"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, Why Speculate?, 2002

This is probably most appropriately categorized as a form of attentional bias, as we are only applying our critical thinking skill in those cases where the environment -- specifically, the subject matter -- makes it easy. However, Gell-Mann amnesia is something that most people can easily focus on to improve their information hygiene, and it is a useful thing to keep in mind when you notice a news source often starts talking nonsense when they cover your specialty subject. The flip side, of course, is that if you agree with everything a media outlet says, you are probably not an expert who has finally found a journal targeted at experts, you are probably in an echo chamber.

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