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“Instead of Directly Refuting Misinformation, Consider ‘Bypassing’ It”


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It is tempting to argue with someone who is misinformed by showing you studies and articles proving them wrong. But new research shows that there is another, less confrontational way to get someone to change their mind.

New study in Scientific reports, led by Dolores Albarracín, a social psychologist who specializes in attitudes and persuasion, and Alexandra Hyman Nash-Penn University of Knowledge University Professor of Knowledge, has found that “getting past” misinformation is just as effective as debunking it. on me.

This method requires looking at the conclusions one wants their audience to reach — is it that vaccines are safe, or that genetically modified foods are something to support? – and support these conclusions with positive facts that the public may not have considered.

Disinformation overcoming strategy

Although refuting lies with counterfactuals works to change people’s beliefs about lies, it is not easy. No one likes to be corrected and repeating misinformation to correct it risks cementing the misinformation in the person’s memory or alienating them if they feel attacked.

In the paper, Albarracin—Director of the Division of Science Communication at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) and a faculty member in the Annenberg School for Communication, School of Nursing, and Department of Psychology—and co-author Christopher Calabrese, who was formerly an APPC postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor at Clemson University, Overreach as a new way to address misinformation outcomes.

An overreach strategy involves identifying a conclusion, such as “vaccines are safe,” and knowing how to reinforce that conclusion with accurate information that doesn’t directly refute misleading claims.

For example, to go beyond the belief that vaccines cause health harm, one can highlight the positive effects of vaccines around the world, such as significantly reducing infant mortality. This alone can heighten the conclusion that vaccines are desirable, without confronting that person with facts and figures to counter a misconception about vaccines.

“The fear that vaccines cause autism may be one of the beliefs that shapes a person’s attitude toward vaccines,” says Barracin, who is also director of the Annenberg Social Work Laboratory, “but humans have many beliefs at once. Drawing attention to positive beliefs can People’s opinions change.”

Correction vs. Override

For the study, Albarracín and Calabrese conducted three experiments to test the effectiveness of this strategy.

During the first two experiments, participants read an article that falsely claimed that a newly developed genetically modified corn product caused severe allergic reactions.

Then, some of the participants read an article contesting the previous article with facts and an alternative explanation—correcting the misinformation. Others read an article highlighting the positive benefits of genetically engineered food, whether it’s saving bees or ending global hunger – bypassing misinformation.

As a control, some participants did not receive a second article, while others read a second article on an unrelated topic. A third experiment tested a different misinformation article—one of which wrongly claims that genetically modified corn accelerates tumor growth in mice.


During each experiment, the researchers measured participants’ attitudes toward policies restricting the manufacture of GM foods (marking them as good or bad and beneficial versus not beneficial) as well as their intention to support these policies.

They found that both override and correction led to less support for GM food restrictions, meaning that both reduced the initial impact of misinformation that GM foods cause allergies. These results were maintained for attitudes toward GM restrictions and intentions to support restrictions, which were less positive.

We live in a world where misinformation spreads like wildfire. Researchers say the override is a tool that policymakers and influencers should use to combat this misinformation.

“There is an obvious pressure to come out and expose misinformation, but we can also strengthen other beliefs and look at misinformation within the broader system of beliefs that people hold,” says Albarracin. “Transcendence allows you to work from the point of view of the outcome you want — highlighting the beliefs that support it rather than focusing solely on contradicting misinformation.”

more information:
Christopher Calabrese et al. Overcoming misinformation without confrontation improves policy support as much as correcting it, Scientific reports (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-33299-5

Provided by the University of Pennsylvania

the quote: Instead of Refuting Misinformation Head-on-bypassing, Try to “Bypassing It” (2023, April 26) Retrieved April 26, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-refuting-misinformation-head-on-bypassing. html

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