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article imageLooking into the truth about perception and misinformation

By Tim Sandle     Nov 17, 2019 in Internet
New research assesses why it is often challenging for consumers to internalize the types of retracted information that are issued by enterprises or from media organizations. This is symptomatic of the digital age.
Information is issues in vast quantities across the Internet and it is difficult to keep track of. It is even more difficult to keep tabs on some information that was previously issued, and which now needs to be changed or event redacted.
The rapid pace and changes, even where they are picked up, require consumers to continually update their memories. However, research suggest that altering our previous understanding of information is not all that straightforward.
The researchers use an example of a drugs firm that initially presents a testimonial about a patient's positive experience with a new pharmaceutical, supported by the customary information about the possible side effects and any interactions with other medicines. Later, the big pharma firm declares that the medication is actually less effective than previously declared.
However, many people will continue to retain the information that they first heard relating to the effectivity of the drug product.
man watching TV and using remote
man watching TV and using remote
This is because we tend to construct mental models of events that we connect together in a cause-effect chain. This sequence then often becomes embedded into our memories. It becomes hard to change this types of encoded memories as it creates gaps in the chain of events, which our brains do not like. The researchers refer to this as the “continued influence effect”. This refers to the way false claims enter memory and continue to influence beliefs even after they have been corrected.
Taking this concept further, the researchers wished to explore if the continued influence effect was more common when stories included an explanation for the outcome of the story (instead of missing out such detail).
The study found that while it is difficult to change an existing version of events, people appear to be more willing to update their memories if something bad has happened to an identifiable character, like a death or serious illness. This is especially so if the character can be related to.
The aim of the study is to help companies and news organizations retract misinformation, in a way that will have the greatest resonance with consumers. This means providing consumers with an alternative cause and effect explanation. As an example, instead of simply stating the scientific fact that studies linking autism to vaccines are false, it is better to challenge this misinformation by setting out the established causes of autism.
The research has been published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and it is titled “How Stories in Memory Perpetuate the Continued Influence of False Information.”
More about Data, Truth, Communication, Misinformation, Consumers
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