However, unlike the photographs I took this afternoon, the Cottingley fairies were widely regarded as genuine by a large number of people, including a non-critical thinking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I believe the young girls who faked the above picture kept up the pretence into their old age before finally admitting to the prank.
Everyone who looks at my pictures will instantly think that I have photo-shopped some images of fairies from the Internet on to some snaps I took of my kids. And of course they would be quite right. The reason, however, they would jump to this conclusion I think is no reflection on my Photoshop skills, I believe they would have reached the same conclusion, however professionally done the photographs looked. The reason why everyone automatically assumes that my photographs were faked is because we are all familiar with the tools and techniques for doctoring photographs. You don’t need to be Jonathon Creek to work that one out.
When the Cottingley fairy pictures were taken, people were not so familiar with the notion of altering photographs or producing fake images, so the initial assumption with many people was that they were real.
My hypothesis suggests that as people become more familiar with the tools and techniques used by charlatans, hoaxers and fraudsters, they become less accepting of their claims and more likely to lean towards a more rational explanation for what they see.
Therefore if we all become more familiar with cold reading, will more of us find rational explanations to why psychics seem to know the unknowable?
If Richard Wiseman teaches us all how to bend spoons, will we be less impressed with certain Israeli conjurors?
If we understand more about neurology and pareidolia will we see less ghosts and UFO’s?
The example of my fairy photo’s suggest that all we need is a bit of familiarity in the methods of the hoaxers.