Friday, March 02, 2012



IWS Documented News Service


Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau



New America Foundation


Media Policy Initiative

Research Paper


February 2012

Misinformation and Fact-checking: Research Findings from Social Science

by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler

[full-text, 28 pages]



Summary of social science findings

Information deficits: Factual information can change policy preferences, but the effect is not consistent. Information seems to be most effective in shaping preferences about government spending. One drawback to these studies is that they generally do not directly measure changes in misperceptions.

Motivated reasoning: People’s evaluations of new information are shaped by their beliefs. Misperceptions seem to generally reflect sincere beliefs. Information that chal­lenges these beliefs is generally unwelcome and can prompt a variety of compensatory responses. As a result, corrections are sometimes ineffective and can even backfire.

Ad watches: Studies examining campaign ad watch stories reached conflicting conclu­sions about the effectiveness of these segments.

Belief perseverance and continued influence: Once a piece of information is encoded in memory, it can be very difficult to eliminate its effects on subsequent attitudes and beliefs.

Sources matter: The source of a given statement can have a significant effect on how the claim is interpreted. People are more receptive to sources that share their party affilia­tion or values and those that provide unexpected information.

Negations, affirmations, and fluency: Attempts to correct false claims can backfire via two related mechanisms. First, repeating a false claim with a negation (e.g., “John is not a criminal”) leads people to more easily remember the core of the sentence (“John is a criminal”). Second, people may use the familiarity of a claim as a heuristic for its accu­racy. If the correction makes a claim seem more familiar, the claim may be more likely to be seen as true.

Identity and race: When information about race or social identity is salient, it can under­mine the effectiveness of corrections about public figures from different racial or cul­tural backgrounds.

Threats to control: When people feel a lack of control, they compensate with strategies that lead to greater acceptance of misperceptions.

Visuals: Graphics may be an effective way to present corrective information about quan­titative variables. However, graphical representations of the accuracy of political state­ments were found to have no effect on factual knowledge.



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