You don’t have to tell a story! A registered report testing the effectiveness of narrative versus non-narrative misinformation corrections

Ullrich K.H. Ecker, Lucy H. Butler, Anne Hamby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Misinformation often has an ongoing effect on people’s memory and inferential reasoning even after clear corrections are provided; this is known as the continued influence effect. In pursuit of more effective corrections, one factor that has not yet been investigated systematically is the narrative versus non-narrative format of the correction. Some scholars have suggested that a narrative format facilitates comprehension and retention of complex information and may serve to overcome resistance to worldview-dissonant corrections. It is, therefore, a possibility that misinformation corrections are more effective if they are presented in a narrative format versus a non-narrative format. The present study tests this possibility. We designed corrections that are either narrative or non-narrative, while minimizing differences in informativeness. We compared narrative and non-narrative corrections in three preregistered experiments (total N = 2279). Experiment 1 targeted misinformation contained in fictional event reports; Experiment 2 used false claims commonly encountered in the real world; Experiment 3 used real-world false claims that are controversial, in order to test the notion that a narrative format may facilitate corrective updating primarily when it serves to reduce resistance to correction. In all experiments, we also manipulated test delay (immediate vs. 2 days), as any potential benefit of the narrative format may only arise in the short term (if the story format aids primarily with initial comprehension and updating of the relevant mental model) or after a delay (if the story format aids primarily with later correction retrieval). In all three experiments, it was found that narrative corrections are no more effective than non-narrative corrections. Therefore, while stories and anecdotes can be powerful, there is no fundamental benefit of using a narrative format when debunking misinformation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number64
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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