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I want to talk a minute about this piece in @nature encouraging scientists to counter misinformation. While I agree with Tim about the importance of scientists counterbalancing misinfo online fact corrections can backfire if you aren't careful. A thread /1…
Fact corrections can result in a "backfire effect" meaning that instead of accepting & changing their understanding they double-down. It can mean a concept goes from something they think to something they *know*, which is even harder to counter. You don't want this outcome /2
But obviously there are certain facts that are vital for our society to function. Don't mix bleach & ammonia. Voting information. Vaccines don't cause autism. When you're doing #SciComm & encounter someone who isn't just uninformed but misinformed how do you proceed? /3
We can learn from political scientists and psychologists who have researched the impact of fact correction on voters who are misinformed about facts (ex: what a politician voted for/against, contents of a bill). These tools can be used across disciplines & topics/issues /4
First we have to recognize that often misinformation is linked to values, worldviews & identities. This is true for science just as much as politics. Fact corrections that reinforce previously held views are welcome surprises. Fact corrections that threaten them risk rejection /5
People tend to seek out info that confirms their biases. Higher education just makes them more skilled at doing so. Surrounded by supporting info, new dissenting information is seen as only confirming their beliefs. Esp if identity & decisions were built upon those beliefs /6
Let's take an example. Attempts to correct misinformation among vaccine resistant parents reduced misconceptions but ALSO increased likelihood they wouldn't vaccinate. Stories & images of kids sick w/ VPD *increased* belief that vaccines are dangerous.… /7
But there are approaches that can work better. 1) People aren't going to set aside their biases, values, or worldviews. Instead you have to find a way to communicate that "rings true" & connects to those existing ways of seeing the world. Even if you disagree with it yourself /8
2) Find a voice deemed credible within one of their communities who can transmit this information. Sometimes you aren't the right messenger. When I talk about climate change with evangelical family I often start by asking them to watch a video w/ @KHayhoe & then we discuss /9
3) Fill the gap in their mental model. Facts don't exist in a void for people. If previously A --> B --> C and you tell them B is wrong how are they connecting A & C? Your correction won't make sense unless you help them see an alternate functioning model that is acceptable /10
4) Be careful about lists of "myths". The very first info should be that the following are misleading/wrong. Even better to list correct info and mention myths in the description. People approach lists assuming them to be true & tend to remember them as such /11
5) Pick sources for your fact correction with your audience in mind. Consider local news, news outlets aligning with their political/social values, neutral sites, etc.
6) Affirm their values & identity. "You're a good parent" goes much further in vaccine conversations /12
7) Use repeated interactions. Misinformation rarely disappears from one engagement. Also provide space for dialogue that is respectful, open, and bi-directional. If you are in a context where you can't engage the same person over and over try to be a constant in the community /13
8) And some general suggestions: avoid jargon, don't talk down to people, don't try to win or "drop the mic", don't tell people how to feel, don't question their values, avoid snark, and be genuine. Connect to them as a person if possible before you get into details. /14 fin.
OK I lied one more: I don't want to suggest a backfire effect will occur with every fact correction. And please do correct misinformation!! But COVID-19 has become politicized so you'll be more successful if you use the tips above. Go forth and #SciComm #SciEngage! /15
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