Fed up with futile internet arguments, a bunch of psychologists investigated how best to correct false ideas. Tom Stafford discovers how to debunk properly.
We all resist changing our beliefs about the world, but what happens when some of those beliefs are based on misinformation? Is there a right way to correct someone when they believe something that’s wrong?
Stephen Lewandowsky and John Cook set out to review the science on this topic, and even carried out a few experiments of their own. This effort led to their “Debunker’s Handbook“, which gives practical, evidence-based techniques for correcting misinformation about, say, climate change or evolution. Yet the findings apply to any situation where you find the facts are falling on deaf ears.
The first thing their review turned up is the importance of “backfire effects” – when telling people that they are wrong only strengthens their belief…
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