How to debunk misinformation? : An experimental online study investigating text structures and headline formats

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2023
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Kotz, Johannes
Giese, Helge
König, Laura M.
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Zusammenfassung

Objectives Misinformation is a crucial problem, particularly online, and the success of debunking messages has so far been limited. In this study, we experimentally test how debunking text structure (truth sandwich vs. bottom-heavy) and headline format (statement vs. questions) affect the belief in misinformation across topics of the safety of COVID vaccines and GMO foods.

Design Experimental online study.

Methods A representative German sample of 4906 participants were randomly assigned to reading one of eight debunking messages in the experimentally varied formats and subsequently rated the acceptance of this message and the agreement to misinformation statements about the mentioned topics and an unrefuted control myth.

Results While the debunking messages specifically decreased the belief in the targeted myth, these beliefs and the acceptance of the debunking message were unaffected by the text structures and headline formats. Yet, they were less successful when addressing individuals with strong pre-existing, incongruent attitudes and distrust in science.

Conclusions The risk of backfire effects in debunking misinformation is low. Text structure and headline format are of relatively little importance for the effectiveness of debunking messages. Instead, writers may need to pay attention to the text being comprehensive, trustworthy and persuasive to maximize effectiveness.

Zusammenfassung in einer weiteren Sprache
Fachgebiet (DDC)
150 Psychologie
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attitude, communication, Covid-19, genetically modified food, vaccination
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ISO 690KOTZ, Johannes, Helge GIESE, Laura M. KÖNIG, 2023. How to debunk misinformation? : An experimental online study investigating text structures and headline formats. In: British Journal of Health Psychology. Wiley. 2023, 28(4), pp. 1097-1112. ISSN 1359-107X. eISSN 2044-8287. Available under: doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12670
BibTex
@article{Kotz2023-06debun-67215,
  year={2023},
  doi={10.1111/bjhp.12670},
  title={How to debunk misinformation? : An experimental online study investigating text structures and headline formats},
  number={4},
  volume={28},
  issn={1359-107X},
  journal={British Journal of Health Psychology},
  pages={1097--1112},
  author={Kotz, Johannes and Giese, Helge and König, Laura M.}
}
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Misinformation is a crucial problem, particularly online, and the success of debunking messages has so far been limited. In this study, we experimentally test how debunking text structure (truth sandwich vs. bottom-heavy) and headline format (statement vs. questions) affect the belief in misinformation across topics of the safety of COVID vaccines and GMO foods.

Design
Experimental online study.

Methods
A representative German sample of 4906 participants were randomly assigned to reading one of eight debunking messages in the experimentally varied formats and subsequently rated the acceptance of this message and the agreement to misinformation statements about the mentioned topics and an unrefuted control myth.

Results
While the debunking messages specifically decreased the belief in the targeted myth, these beliefs and the acceptance of the debunking message were unaffected by the text structures and headline formats. Yet, they were less successful when addressing individuals with strong pre-existing, incongruent attitudes and distrust in science.

Conclusions
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