Why Misinformation Sticks and Corrections Can Backfire

Mitt and Ann Romney on December 22, 2007, at a...

Mitt and Ann Romney on December 22, 2007, at a campaign event in Londonderry, New Hampshire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now we know why Obama and his cohorts are getting away with all the lies they are telling about Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republicans. He must have read this research report.

Excerpt:  As a new review of past research concludes, “mud” sticks — and, worse, attempts to correct erroneous beliefs can backfire, reinforcing the very misrepresentations they aim to erase. The main problem, the research reveals, is that rejecting information takes more mental effort than accepting it, and given our social environment, most people’s default position is to believe what others tell them. “For better or worse,” the authors write, “the acceptance of information as true is favored by tacit norms of everyday conversational conduct.” Indeed, some research even suggests that in order for the brain to process incoming information at all, it must initially assume that the information is correct.

And yet, we all know that lying and deceit are commonplace. Research shows, for example, that 10% of communication between spouses includes at least some falsehood and that more than one-third of conversations between college students include lies. That means that people aren’t entirely unaware that they’re being spun — but they hold on to their false beliefs anyway.

In multiple studies included in the new review, researchers presented people with a fictitious news report about a warehouse fire that was initially thought to have been caused by negligent storage of gas cylinders and oil paints. The participants were then offered an explicit retraction of the information about the cause of the fire, but even after reading the correction, only about half of those in the study reported that the initial news account was wrong. The finding suggests that the original false belief may stick 50% of the time, despite a correction.

Why? One reason may be that the correction itself repeats the inaccurate information — and repetition is known to strengthen memory.

Read full report here.

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