From Argentina to Nigeria, it restricts the study of realities of misconceptions. Many newsrooms have established fact-finding teams, and some independent service organizations have been formed. We're exploring real political issues, and Facebook is now exposing what it considers misinformation with fact-finding links.
There are clearly limitations to the fact that many people are still afraid of Covid-19 vaccines. But is it possible that the environment for misinformation is so hot in the United States? A new study examines the effectiveness of fact-finding in a range of countries both geographically and culturally diverse, and finds that fact-finding in public forms shapes public perceptions of information.
Studying with Different Countries
The two new researchers behind this work, Ethan Porter and Thomas Wood, have identified three countries outside the usual group of wealthy industrialized countries where most demographic surveys are conducted in them. These were Argentina, Nigeria and South Africa. As a kind of control for routine surveys, they also conducted their study in the United Kingdom. All four countries have professional fact-finding organizations that have helped recruit 2,000 citizens for the study.
The design of the experiment was simple. The researchers created a set of misinformation. Two sets of groups (on climate change and epidemics) were globally relevant. But they also provided elements that fit the environment of disinformation in each country. These include examples such as the salary budget in South Africa, the public debt-to-GDP ratio in Argentina, or youth unemployment in Nigeria.
Participants randomly received one irrelevant misinformation from one of the three conditions of the control group. Another group received the misinformation that was widely disseminated in their country as a simple and true statement. The third group received incorrect information with a close look at the information.
Participants were then asked to rate their belief in misinformation on a five-point scale, which I strongly believe is true and which we strongly believe is false. In all countries except Nigeria, the same participants were contacted two weeks later to see if the fact-finding investigation had been disrupted. They were also asked to answer a 10-question survey that placed people on the conservative and liberal ideological spectrum. In general, on a five-point scale for researchers, misinformation is rarely recorded. This is not surprising, because it is simply presented in the form of a character. In the real world, most misinformation contains cultural and ideological cues that increase its effectiveness. However, fact-finding in various countries was very effective and removed the influence of incorrect information and then increased acceptance of accurate information by half on a five-point scale.
However, effectiveness varies greatly by topic. For example, it has been very effective in correcting misunderstandings about the overall malaria mortality rate in Nigeria, but it has been very effective in ensuring that Argentines know their public debt-to-GDP ratio. But any fact-finding was fairly effective. And when it was checked two weeks later, nine out of 15 people were checked for accuracy.
Who is Boris? Find out the facts on some specific topics, such as Boris Johnson's budget for education in the UK. But these cases were averaged, and fact-checking in general improved the accuracy of people's beliefs, no matter where they were on the ideological spectrum. Wood concludes that fact-finding is generally effective. This does not mean that it works for everyone or that it is equally effective for all substances. But at least, on some level, people are willing to accept the details of fact-finding.
However, researchers are increasingly looking at their work as an indication that it is worth studying in different situations. the countries. They acknowledge that their work has limitations, such as simply providing misleading information to participants. Nor does it use the social factors that influence the study of reality in various issues. For example, they note that studies in the United States have identified demographic groups and cognitive habits that predispose individuals to misinformation and thus are likely to be more resilient to fact-finding. Such cases would be important for study in other cultures.
But, of course, before doing these studies, it is very important to know that there is something to study. It appears that there is.
PNAS, 2021. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2104235118 (about DOIs).
Fact-finding in many countries reduces misinformation
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