In this age of “fake news,” falsehoods being quickly spread online are in need of quick debunking. After spending decades trying to understand how misinformation spreads, researchers have a better understanding of how to effectively debunk fake news. Based on the findings of recent experiments and research, here are three broad recommendations on how to expose and combat misinformation.
- Limit Arguments Supporting Misinformation
- Encourage Scrutiny
- Present New Information
Limit Arguments Supporting Misinformation
Researchers discovered that rehashing arguments in favor of misinformation can inadvertently reinforce it, strengthening the defense against the truth. This is especially true when the lie offers a simpler explanation than the truth.
When debunking fake news, it is useful to get the audience in a skeptical mindset. It is also helpful to make the audience feel engaged with the skepticism. Just labeling the theory “false” is not as convincing to people who believe it as walking them through the reasons it cannot be true.
You lead them down the garden path, rather than do all the work for them. – Dolores Albarracín, Professor of Psychology, Business, and Medicine at the University of Illinois
Present New Information
Contributing new and credible information is especially effective in unseating fake news. New information allows people to revisit and update their understanding of events, justifying why they fell for the falsehood in the first place. New research published in the summer of 2017 found that videos could be especially useful in correcting misinformation. Fact-checking videos seemed to “increase attention and reduce confusion” when compared with text content.
As a society we are more commonly using the words “fake news.” To combat the rise of misinformation, it is important to show how it happens, where it comes from, and show how fake news is generated, why it is generated and how it is used as a political weapon.