Description: Given our direct and media shared experiences surrounding recent events such as the COVID pandemic, American elections and related capital events, climate change and much else you cannot be unaware of the phenomenon of misinformation and related beliefs. You may be aware of concerns over social media “echo chambers” that become sole sources for “information” that fits the desires and beliefs of particular groups. If you are currently of the view that consumers of “fake news” of any sort are simply not bright enough or are too ideologically blind to see routes to truth, then you too have been influenced by forms of misinformation. Rather than wishing such influences on public opinion would go away (not going to happen any time soon) perhaps it is time to take a deep breath and a running dive into the science of misinformation and at what can potentially be done about it. The linked article below is a review, by involved researchers, on the aspects of our psychological make up and functioning that drive our entanglements with misinformation (fake news, echo chambers, etc.). You can read through the article on your own (take your time). Alternatively, I would suggest that you take on the article with a group of people by all reading it but also be dividing up responsibility for the different sections of the article and then having each sub-team lead a group discussion of each section of the article as your move though it. As you do your work think hard about the examples the authors provide to illustrate their points and see how many other examples you can come up with from your own experience. The issue of misinformation is NOT going to simply fade away. It is an issue of our current times and we need to build a solid understanding of it so that we can intelligently address it and the discord and havoc it is driving these days.
Source: The Psychological Drivers of misinformation belief and its resistance to correction. Ullrich K. H. Ecker et al., Nature Reviews, Psychology.
Date: January 12, 2022
Article Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s44159-021-00006-y
I do not have a detailed summary or reflection to offer on the linked article simply because you need to dive into it and work at understanding where the work regarding misinformation beliefs currently sits, what it has to offer in the way of “what to do suggestions, and what it is pointing out that we need in the way of additional research in this important area. I will ask one thing that might help you to see that the issue of misinformation belief is not new (though it IS a bigger deal today, perhaps, that in the past given the power of social media etc.) My question is, did you catch the Star Wars reference in the article? Towards the end of the section on drivers of false beliefs there is this line; “encouraging people to ‘rely on their emotions’ increases their vulnerability to misinformation.” Do you have it yet? After revealing that he is Luke’s father, Darth Vader says to Luke; “search your feelings, you know it is true!” Oh, and yes I know that the status of Vader’s paternity is not misinformation (I saw the other films too) BUT Vader’s strong belief that Luke must join him on the dark side certainly IS based on misinformation beliefs. Not science but a poignant example, nonetheless.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are misinformation beliefs?
- How many examples of misinformation beliefs can you come up with (there are lots and lots out there around us)?
- How important is it that we develop a deeper understanding of misinformation bias and what sorts of things should we be doing both the apply what we already know about its psychological drivers and what do we need to research further?
References (Read Further):
Ecker, U.K.H., Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J. et al. (2022) The psychological drivers of misinformation belief and its resistance to correction. Nat Rev Psychol 1, 13–29. Link
Almost all of the research articles cited in the linked article (cited just above) are available via links located in the reference list of the article itself. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of those links to follow your curiosities and interest deeper into this important topic!