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Which Corrections Work? Research Results and Practice Recommendations for Journalists

  • By Brendan Nyhan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Government, Dartmouth College and Jason Reifler, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics, University of Exeter
October 21, 2013 |
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Social science research has found that misinformation about politics and other controversial issues is often very difficult to correct. However, all corrections are not necessarily equal -- some approaches to presenting corrective information may be more persuasive than others. In this report, we summarize new research in the field and present recommendations for journalists, educators, and civil society groups who hope to counter the influence of false or misleading claims.

The key challenge in countering misperceptions is to understand the psychology of belief - why people might believe something that is not true and reject or ignore corrective information contradicting that belief. If people are sufficiently motivated to believe in a claim, of course, it may be impossible to change their minds. In other cases, however, different approaches to presenting corrective information may be more effective. This report focuses on three areas in which corrections often fail to capitalize on what is known about how people process information: using non-credible or unpersuasive sources, failing to displace inaccurate causal understandings of an event or outcome; and trying to negate false claims rather than affirm correct ones.

Click here to read the full paper.

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