Thursday, January 21st, 2021

International Researchers Develop ‘Vaccine’ Against ‘Fake News’

Published on January 24, 2017 by   ·   No Comments

International researchers develop ‘vaccine’ against ‘fake news’


Scientists at Cambridge, Yale and George Mason are seriously considering a “vaccine” against fake news, and believe they’ve found a solution – one that’s not too different from immunization against an ordinary viral pathogen.

According to social psychologist Dr. Sander van der Linden, “Misinformation can be sticky, spreading and replicating like a virus.” Therefore, new research has found that treating it like an actual virus may do the trick.

The research focused on fake news about climate change, though the model can potentially be applied anywhere else to “inoculate” the public against misinformation. It discovered that when two types of information are presented consecutively, the wrong information would completely cancel out what was said before. In other words, the opinion would go full circle.

So the solution would then be to introduce small amounts of misinformation together with the correct information. They would stand out obviously, and act not as distortion, but as something the mind could immediately compare with the correct information, preventing a shift of the resulting opinion to either side too strongly.

Regardless of any follow-up exposure to fake news, the method would still do the trick, researchers discovered.

“We wanted to see if we could find a ‘vaccine’ by pre-emptively exposing people to a small amount of the type of misinformation they might experience. A warning that helps preserve the facts,” van der Linden went on.

The point was to create “a cognitive repertoire that helps build up resistance to misinformation,” thereby weakening its effect the next time around.

The researchers tested their hypothesis – the so-called ‘inoculation theory’ – by inventing a pretend scenario that would closely mimic the dynamics of misinformation on a highly-publicized subject as they play out in real life.

The study was performed on Republicans, Democrats and Independents equally, and achieved a high degree of efficacy with their sample size of 2,000 people. The participants were all given popular false statements on prominent topics. Each was rated for familiarity and the persuasiveness of its arguments.

n the end, results showed that the most popular falsehood was that there is no scientific consensus on climate change being caused by man, or that the CO2 we release will directly lead to it. This was exemplified by the Global Warming Petition Project, which claims to have conducted a test to find that “over 31,000 American scientists” support the view that there is no singular consensus.

Another, correct statement was also used: that “97 percent of scientists agree on manmade climate change.” The decision to use this was inspired by van der Linden’s previous work, which proved that scientific consensus has a bigger chance of influencing people.

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