Do Corrections Work?
Only if you’re predisposed to believe the “correct” information:
Nyhan, along with Georgia State University’s Jason Reifler, conducted a series of experiments in 2005 and 2006 in which student test subjects read mock news articles featuring misleading statements about well-known but ideologically contentious subjects such as the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion. Half of their subjects read articles including only the misleading statements; half read articles that also included a correction.
By comparing the two groups of respondents, Nyhan and Reifler determined that the ideology of the subjects tended to predict reactions. Efforts to correct misperceptions were more likely to succeed among those ideologically sympathetic to the correction, such as liberals to the notion that WMD were never found in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was deposed. But the corrections tended to “boomerang” among those ideologically predisposed to believe the erroneous information. Thus, conservative subjects who had read the correction were even more.
We’ve talked on this blog before about the fact that correcting bad information can serve (unintentionally) to reinforce bad information. But this adds a partisan spin to things: If we want to believe the correct information, we’ll do that. And if we want to believe the incorrect, bad information, we’ll do that — and we’ll do it harder if anyone tells us it’s wrong.
Reality can indeed be… very truthy.
Neuroworld looked at vaccine insanity here.
Neuroworld gave Tiger Woods some notes on scandal management here.