Cambridge University scientists have devised a “vaccine” that could help stop the spread of some “ fake news.”
In a study titled Inoculating the Public Against Misinformation About Climate Change, researchers compare the spread of disinformation to a virus moving from person to person.
Their analysis suggests that “pre-emptively highlighting false claims and refuting potential counterarguments” can make people less vulnerable to the falsehoods; much like exposing people to a small dose of a disease during vaccination.
“In medicine, resistance to a virus can be conferred by exposing someone to a weakened version of the virus,” the study said, “The social–psychological theory of attitudinal inoculation follows a similar logic: A threat is introduced by forewarning people that they may be exposed to information that challenges their existing beliefs or behaviors.”
The study focused on myths spread about about climate change.
In a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. residents, the researchers found that presenting people with scientific news alongside misinformation led to the falsehood being more widely believed.
However, in a second example, it was found that presenting the same fake news as a warning led to respondents going with the truth.