Gell-Mann Amnesia

9th January 2022

1 minute read

The Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (From Russell Davies new book, Everything I know about life I learned from Powerpoint)

You’re watching the news and they start talking about something you know well. Your work, hobby or special interest. You realise they’re getting it horribly and massively wrong. They’re generalising unhelpfully and some details are just plain incorrect. You’re horrified and appalled. Journalists know nothing! 

And then they move on to the next item, about banking or unemployment or whatever and you assume that, in every other instance, they’re broadly getting it right.

This is called the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect, and shows how quickly we can attribute authority to something even when its provably not correct, and we’ve just seen how the source can be wrong. It was coined by Michael Crichton – worth remembering when reading the news, or indeed, anything.

Not this website though, obviously… 

Written by Rob Dobson

Rob Dobson has been working in digital and building websites for 20 years. From designing and developing the world’s first internet bank in 1999 (, he founded Northern Comfort in 2010.

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