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When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions

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posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 06:51 AM
This is a research piece I came across on the web, by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler.

It contains some great insights and fascinating research.

An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire” effect in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.

Complete Paper

Considering the current political scene, I though it was worth posting for discussion.


posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 03:47 PM
It's a terrible but fascinating phenomenon. Great post.

When I was in college, I worked briefly as a telephone surveyor. Not for a reputable not-for-profit or university-affiliated group -- for a company that was basically hired to spread disinformation via telephone surveys.

Each survey would take about 20 minutes, and was structured this way:

Introductory questions: how do you feel about [issue or candidate]
Step two questions: find out how much people know about a subject
Bulk of the interview: "Would your attitude about x change if you found out that [blatant lie]?"
Concluding questions: repeat the first questions, asking them how they feel now.

Examples included a politician who we smeared with hypotheticals about tax evasion, and clearcut logging practices (how would you feel about clearcutting if it were found that it was beneficial to the environment?).

What terrified me was that almost everyone who made it through the whole interview changed their mind. Based on nothing more than a minimum-wage-slave calling them and making unbacked-up, hypothetical, statements for fifteen minutes.

It is amazing how ready people (including myself, no doubt) are to believe what we hear, and how hard it is to convince us that something we have heard is false.

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