Even when initial debunkings backfire, repeatedly presenting voters with debunking information does break through

From Joe Romm, January 2018

It’s true that early research did suggest that repeating a myth in order to debunk it would backfire and actually reinforce the myth. But newer studies, some of which were recently detailed in Slate, don’t replicate this effect. Negating a frame or myth does not invariably strengthen it.

In fact, according to some of the experts I’ve been talking to, repeatedly debunking a myth appears to work  — especially if done the optimum way. For instance, the study “The Affective Tipping Point: Do Motivated Reasoners Ever ‘Get It’?” found that even when initial debunkings do backfire, repeatedly presenting voters with debunking information does break through. (For more of the latest science on effective debunking techniques, see the December study, “Beyond Misinformation: Understanding and Coping with the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.”)

Third, the fact is that Trump’s repeated lies have actually caught up with him because he has been so repeatedly debunked, to the point where his credibility is deeply tarnished with a majority of the public. Polls routinely show that more than half of voters believe he is dishonest and untrustworthy, while only a third believe the reverse.

Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition Volume 6, Issue 4, December 2017, Pages 353-369 Beyond Misinformation: Understanding and Coping with the “Post-Truth” Era

The terms “post-truth” and “fake news” have become increasingly prevalent in public discourse over the last year. This article explores the growing abundance of misinformation, how it influences people, and how to counter it. We examine the ways in which misinformation can have an adverse impact on society. We summarize how people respond to corrections of misinformation, and what kinds of corrections are most effective. We argue that to be effective, scientific research into misinformation must be considered within a larger political, technological, and societal context. The post-truth world emerged as a result of societal mega-trends such as a decline in social capital, growing economic inequality, increased polarization, declining trust in science, and an increasingly fractionated media landscape. We suggest that responses to this malaise must involve technological solutions incorporating psychological principles, an interdisciplinary approach that we describe as “technocognition.” We outline a number of recommendations to counter misinformation in a post-truth world.