False beliefs persist, even after instant online corrections

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It seems like a great idea: Provide instant corrections to web-surfers when they run across obviously false information on the Internet. But a new study suggests that this type of tool may not be a panacea for dispelling inaccurate beliefs, particularly among people who already want to believe the falsehood.

“Real-time corrections do have some positive effect, but it is mostly with people who were predisposed to reject the false claim anyway,” said R. Kelly Garrett, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University.

“The problem with trying to correct false information is that some people want to believe it, and simply telling them it is false won’t convince them.”

For example, the rumor that President Obama was not born in the United States was widely believed during the past election season, even though it was thoroughly debunked.

The prospect of correcting falsehoods like this online before they have a chance to spread widely has obvious appeal, Garrett said.

In fact, it has already been attempted: A team from Intel and the University of California, Berkeley, developed Dispute Finder, a plug-in for web browsers that was released in 2009 and would alert users when they opened a webpage with a disputed claim. That project has ended, but Garrett said similar efforts are under way.

“Although the average news user hasn’t encountered real-time correction software yet, it is in the works and I suspect it will see more widespread use soon,” he said.

Written By: e! Science News
continue to source article at esciencenews.com

14 COMMENTS

  1. “Although the average news user hasn’t encountered real-time correction software yet, it is in the works and I suspect it will see more widespread use soon,” he said.

    I don’t believe a word of the above…

    Anvil.

  2. I’m hoping the systems we are working on at rbutr will overcome many of the problems encountered in this study, since rbutr doesn’t attempt to assert authority over the subject matter, merely provide a means of accessing an opposing perspective, and thereby engage in a pseudo-discussion between websites.

    In any case though, it is great to see research like this being done, and I am looking forwards to reading the actual paper in more detail!

  3. Did the correction involve an explanation, explicit or not, of the process and evidence used to arrive at it? If not, then why would we even want people who don’t yet possess the skills necessary to evaluate a claim to accept a correction whose veracity would be for them just as indecipherable as that of the claim itself?

    >

    So, assuming you’re not into herding sheep, how is this supposed default behavior of rejecting counter claims from a position of ignorance a bad thing? I know, because they’re wrong dammit. :^)

  4. Good news Anvil

    It’s working already! The AVN (the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network) is already feeling the heat from this type of software. I hope it’ll soon be like anti-viral software, the dialog box pops up and asks you if you want safe or shit web sites – avoid at your peril!

    This seems like obvious result, good for people looking for understanding, bad for people looking for confirmation of non-fact based crap.

    In reply to #2 by Anvil:

    “Although the average news user hasn’t encountered real-time correction software yet, it is in the works and I suspect it will see more widespread use soon,” he said.

    I don’t believe a word of the above…

    Anvil.

  5. If the belief is appealing enough and pushes the right buttons, there’s a good chance it will survive the debunking process. Look at the crop circle craze. When the ones responsible for this global phenomenon, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, fessed up that it was their handiwork and not E.T.’s the hardcore believers essentially just ingnored them, or even incorporated the confession into their fantasy: Dave and Doug were shills for the New World Order. The believers had invested too much of themselves to accept that they could have been victims of a hoax perpetrated by a couple of pranksters using a plank of wood and some string.

    It doesn’t matter how outrageous the claim being made – the US army is hiding a flying saucer in an aircraft hangar in Roswell, New Mexico; the Duke of Edinborough had Princess Diana killed; Jimmy Carr is a talented comedian – some people will go for it, particularly if they’re part of a community of like-minded, gullible types.

    The truth is out there©, but it’s unlikely to be found by a thirty-year-old virgin in a Wolverine tee-shirt living in his mom’s basement.

  6. The problem with this idea is who does the “correction” and what is defined as correct in the first place? Sooner or later a government or a global organisation (Google?) will be defining for us what or what is not correct. It’s easy to correct an error of fact – the earth is not flat, for example. But what is a correct ideology a correct religion. Watch out, the camel’s nose is already under the tent.

  7. I agree Stu. I think the idea of an external organisation (especially a company) deciding what is right or wrong is inherently flawed. Not only can it be manipulated and used for idealogical purposes by those in power, but from a usability perspective the people who are handed the ‘facts’ from this organisation are likely to believe they are biased and therefore unreliable. Just look at the creation of a website like Conservapedia – an answer to the ‘biased’ website wikipedia. I really can’t think of a website any less biased then Wikipedia, but there is still a large percentage of the population who insist on having their own version of it for their own political position.

    My belief is that the only way to resolve this issue is to create a giant virtual discussion between competing facts and beliefs (well, really, different arguments) and let the users engage in that discussion. Sure, it won’t necessarily result in everyone taking the same position in the end – but neither does telling everyone ‘the facts’. At least this way they will be well informed, and hopefully a bit closer to the truth than if left on their own to only consume their self-selected biased source.

    Shane

    In reply to #14 by stuhillman:

    The problem with this idea is who does the “correction” and what is defined as correct in the first place? Sooner or later a government or a global organisation (Google?) will be defining for us what or what is not correct. It’s easy to correct an error of fact – the earth is not flat, for example. But what is a correct ideology a correct religion. Watch out, the camel’s nose is already under the tent.

  8. In reply to #11 by Katy Cordeth:

    If the belief is appealing enough and pushes the right buttons, there’s a good chance it will survive the debunking process.

    This is one of the main issues I found while reading this article – the assumption that changing the minds of hardcore zealots is the goal.

    Sure, doing that would be awesome. But just like the God Delusion, it isn’t about changing the unchangable mind, it is about talking to those on the fence, those who are unsure, and those who are just investigating for the first time. If you make the counter-argument available to everyone all the time, then you will catch all of these people when they need it, well before they become 100% certain of their flawed belief.

    If nothing else, it is all for the next generation.

  9. In reply to #5 by Misfire:

    As a teacher by profession, I’d be very surprised to see significant results from a method like this. Facts exist in a framework; that’s why we teach in units.

    Many teaching techniques are archaic & fallible and lean more toward mindless indoctrination through social coercion rather than promoting natural curiosity. Facts exist, frameworks are many. Students find it difficult to connect the dots(units) when bored and uninterested. If you want to be a real teacher you should invent an entertaining video game that rewards the user with a university degree at the final level. You can even include the walk through for the player. Play has always been the best teacher and students will comply more readily when properly entertained. There is only one truth and it belongs to science. We should rely only on proven science to promote human intelligence not flawed emotional beliefs.

  10. In reply to #13 by thebaldgit:

    The problem is how to deal with beliefs which are dressed up as facts and unless people are able to differentiate then you will always be fighting an unnecessarily hard battle.

    I agree. Racial colour is not promoted as scientific fact. It is an emotional moniker used to describe and separate personal prejudice. The whites who viewed Obama only as a black person probably voted emotionally against him while, the blacks with the same viewpoint probably voted emotionally for him.

  11. Well, the sad truth is that a large proportion of humanity is just damn stupid! People that lack the intellectual faculties to differ between what they want to believe and facts. My experience at least is that it’s so common that people just don’t realize that something does not become more true just because you want it to be true.

    That is also why democracy is in the end a noble but impossible project. Impossible due to the fact that most people are ignorant, gullible and just plain stupid! As much as I hate it, fascism seems to be the true state of order for human. I mean, most of us want to be slaves. We hate thinking for ourselves. We want others to do it for us. We don’t want take responsibility for our lives. Fuck humanity…. wait, we are effectively doing that ourselves!

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