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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. -Science Daily
Fiction Writing Prompt: What misinformation do your characters believe? Work this into your character sketches.
Journaling Prompt: Write about an urban legend that you or someone you know believed? How did you feel when it turned out to be misinformation?
Art Prompt: Misinformation
Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about a current piece of misinformation and the effect you believe it has on society.
Photo Credit: Glutnix on Flickr
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