Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their influence

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Abstract

Misinformation can undermine a well-functioning democracy. For example, public misconceptions about climate change can lead to lowered acceptance of the reality of climate change and lowered support for mitigation policies. This study experimentally explored the impact of misinformation about climate change and tested several pre-emptive interventions designed to reduce the influence of misinformation. We found that false-balance media coverage (giving contrarian views equal voice with climate scientists) lowered perceived consensus overall, although the effect was greater among free-market supporters. Likewise, misinformation that confuses people about the level of scientific agreement regarding anthropogenic global warming (AGW) had a polarizing effect, with free-market supporters reducing their acceptance of AGW and those with low free-market support increasing their acceptance of AGW. However, we found that inoculating messages that (1) explain the flawed argumentation technique used in the misinformation or that (2) highlight the scientific consensus on climate change were effective in neutralizing those adverse effects of misinformation. We recommend that climate communication messages should take into account ways in which scientific content can be distorted, and include preemptive inoculation messages.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0175799
Number of pages21
JournalPLoS One
Volume12
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

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misinformation
Climate change
neutralization
Global warming
Communication
Climate Change
Global Warming
climate change
global warming
markets
Climate
methodology
Consensus
climate
Democracy
communication (human)
adverse effects

Cite this

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