John Zalon, Inna Kavensky, and ‘Psychology Facts’: Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You See Online

With the official start of the 2022 campaign period with the week-long filing of certificate of candidacies (COCs), we’ve been seeing a lot of political discourse on our social media newsfeed. Whether they’re actually fact or fiction is usually left up to us to fact-check, unless they’re from verified reputable sources on the topic. And on this week’s latest kalat on the political side of Twitter, we saw some back-and-forth between a Filipino teacher and an American psychology professor regarding a questionable “Psychology Fact.” Here’s what went down:


“Psychology Facts”?

In a since-deleted tweet, a netizen that goes by Jhon Zalon on Twitter talked about how hand gestures supposedly indicate if a person is confident or not about what they’re saying. He attached a photo collage with a headline of “Psychology Facts” and select photos of Bongbong Marcos and Vice President Leni Robredo, who are both candidates for presidency in the next year’s elections.


A psychology professor/Tiktok star debunked it

Psychologist Inna Kavensky, who is a professor of psychology at San Diego Mesa College in California, USA and is also famous on Tiktok for her content debunking psychology myths, came across Zalon’s tweets and told him not to believe “any random thing that is labeled ‘psychology facts’”, indirectly saying that these supposed “facts” are actually a myth.


He tried to defend his statement with . . . approval ratings?


On his Facebook account, Zalon posted a long litany, telling Dr. Inna that she should “practice critical thinking” and “know the different kind of hand gestures and its interpretations” before telling her to just turn her attention to her own country then bringing up . . . government approval ratings? We’re still not sure where he was going with that introduction. To brag, maybe?


. . . and his sources of “Psychology Facts”?

Well, he did eventually go back to the actual topic of sources for his claims. Unfortunately, the “sources” he cited are mostly blog posts without citations. He took quotes from several different links out of context to support his claim.


LF: *Actual* reliable sources

But Dr. Inna is still looking for actual empirical evidence. After she saw Zalon’s post, she replied that he needed to “cite actual empirical studies as evidence of that specific claim” to actually support his claim. Because again, most of his quoted sources came from blog posts and even “contradict each other, and don’t support your original fake fact.”


A lot of Filipinos agreed with Dr. Inna

Even a Filipino psychologist said that the so-called “evidence” wasn’t made for the local context, so it couldn’t be used to prove what Zalon was trying to prove anyway.

Filipinos have also asked Dr. Inna to make a video on the topic of “hand gestures.” She delivered, complete with a thread of links to actual empirical studies:


Zalon apologized

Three days after the tweet that started it all was posted, Zalon issued an apology for “not fact check[ing].” He also addressed Dr. Inna to say that he “acknowledge[s her] expertise in [her] field” and thanks her for educating him about the so-called “psychology facts” he posted. But he ended his post by saying he stands by the caption (i.e. hand gestures say something about one’s confidence; see first point subheading above) because it was his “personal experience”. So did he really understand what Dr. Inna was trying to say? Not sure.


Lesson learned

Probably. We hope.

It’s a lesson learned not just for netizen Jhon Zalon, but also for all of us. We really shouldn’t believe everything we find on the internet unless it’s verified and backed up with credible sources. This is most important during this critical time of campaigning for the upcoming elections. And we need to engage in discourse properly and not to stoop to personal attacks and derogatory remarks. It’s better to educate, not hate, after all.

How to Stop Falling for Fake News: 8 Simple Steps to Spotting Bogus Stories

How to Stop Falling for Fake News: 8 Simple Steps to Spotting Bogus Stories

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