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    [How do you teach your toddler that “bad guys” is a category error?]

    I initially asked this question of ChatGPT and it gave a simple and somewhat useful response. Then I tried it on Google. I’ve been trying to get myself to check traditional search tools even for search prompts that I might not have previously attempted. I see this as a sort of humble hypecert practice.

    The top result on Google for the query [ How do you teach your toddler that “bad guys” is a category error? ] is a nine-year-old Reddit post (& comments) in r/parenting: Teaching your little ones how to fight ( protect themselves ). The title and snippet suggested to me something wildly out of touch with what I was looking for. I was very struck by many of the comments though (which clearly engaged with my query), and found it very engaging. I was even a bit emotional by the whole experience.

    Google [ How do you teach your toddler that “bad guys” is a category error? ]

    A Google[How do you teach your toddler that “bad guys” is a category error?] search. Screenshot taken with Cmd+Control+Shift+4 at: 2023-11-03 09:21:48

    This sort of situation, where the search suggestions or display of the search results suggests a search failure (perhaps irrelevance, inaccuracy, or bias) came up several times in my class last spring. I tasked my students with finding a search failure. In several cases students identified the search suggestions as problematic when following on to the search itself revealed a SERP (search engine results page) entirely oriented around countering the searched-for-claim.


    This problem, due to the stark neutrality that search engines present results and the sometimes limited insight from titles and snippeting, is related to how missing contextually relevant explanations (CRE) may have shifted searcher perceptions of Holocaust-denier search results in 2016 (Mulligan & Griffin, 2018).

    • Starting in 2021 Google added some contextually relevant explanation to individual results, behind a click on three-vertical-dots1, “About this result”: About this result Google’s feature to provide more context about a search result
    • Kagi provides a shield icon that on hover shows site details: Site details information Kagi’s feature to display site details and security information
    • Bing provides a lighbulb “Explore this page” icon that on hover shows more details: a lightbulb icon in a pill

    These explanations probably would not have helped the searcher in the case above though, where the particular relation between the query—result-content matter more than more general information about the site.


    1. Google also has some CRE for “data void” SERPs.↩︎


    Mulligan, D. K., & Griffin, D. (2018). Rescripting search to respect the right to truth. The Georgetown Law Technology Review, 2(2), 557–584. https://georgetownlawtechreview.org/rescripting-search-to-respect-the-right-to-truth/GLTR-07-2018/