The U.S. Supreme Court is strongly committed to the “marketplace of ideas.” It tends to believe, in the words of Justice Louis Brandeis, that the remedy for falsehoods and fallacies is “more speech, not enforced silence.” According to the court, the government cannot punish that lie. But the broad protection of lies, defended by reference to the marketplace of ideas, rests on an inadequate understanding of human psychology.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Paul Rozin has undertaken some fascinating experiments that help explain what’s going on here. In one of his experiments, people were asked to put sugar from a commercial sugar package into two similar brown bottles. Then people were given two labels, “sugar” and “sodium cyanide,” and were asked to put them on the two bottles, however they liked.
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