Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Misinformation: Why It Sticks and How to Fix It

From the 19 September 2011 article at Science News Daily

The main reason that misinformation is sticky, according to the researchers, is that rejecting information actually requires cognitive effort. Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true — it requires additional motivational and cognitive resources. If the topic isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold.

And when we do take the time to thoughtfully evaluate incoming information, there are only a few features that we are likely to pay attention to: Does the information fit with other things I believe in? Does it make a coherent story with what I already know? Does it come from a credible source? Do others believe it?

Misinformation is especially sticky when it conforms to our preexisting political, religious, or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult obstacles to overcome.

Even worse, efforts to retract misinformation often backfire, paradoxically amplifying the effect of the erroneous belief.

“This persistence of misinformation has fairly alarming implications in a democracy because people may base decisions on information that, at some level, they know to be false,” says Lewandowsky….

In their report, Lewandowsky and colleagues offer some strategies for setting the record straight.

  • Provide people with a narrative that replaces the gap left by false information
  • Focus on the facts you want to highlight, rather than the myths
  • Make sure that the information you want people to take away is simple and brief
  • Consider your audience and the beliefs they are likely to hold
  • Strengthen your message through repetition
  • The Penn State Medical Center Library has a great guide to evaluate health information on the Internet.

    The tips include

    • Remember, anyone can publish information on the internet!
    • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
      If the Web site is primarily about selling a product, the information may be worth checking from another source.
    • Look for who is publishing the information and their education, credentials, and if they are connected with a trusted coporation, university or agency.
    • Check to see how current the information is.
    • Check for accuracy. Does the Web site refer to specific studies or organizations?

The Family Caregiver Alliance has a Web page entitled Evaluating Medical Research Findings and Clinical Trials
Topics include

  • General Guidelines for Evaluating Medical Research
  • Getting Information from the Web
  • Talking with your Health Care Provider


Additional Resources

 
And a Rumor Control site of Note (in addition to Quackwatch)
 National Council Against Health Fraud National Council Against Health Fraud is a nonprofit health agency fousing on health misinformation, fruad, and quackery as public health problems. Links to publications, position papers and more.

September 21, 2012 - Posted by | Psychology | , , ,

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