Facing disinformation: Five methods to counter conspiracy theories amid the Covid-19 pandemic

Guan, Tianru and Liu, Tianyang and Yuan, Randong Facing disinformation: Five methods to counter conspiracy theories amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Comunicar, 2021, vol. 29, n. 69, pp. 71-83. [Journal article (Paginated)]

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English abstract

Among the burgeoning discussions on the argumentative styles of conspiracy theories and the related cognitive processes of their audiences, research thus far is limited in regard to developing methods and strategies that could effectively debunk conspiracy theories and reduce the harmful influences of conspiracist media exposure. The present study critically evaluates the effectiveness of five approaches to reducing conspiratorial belief, through experiments (N=607) conducted on Amazon Mechanical Turk. Our results demonstrate that the content-based methods of counter conspiracy theory can partly mitigate conspiratorial belief. Specifically, the science- and fact-focused corrections were able to effectively mitigate conspiracy beliefs, whereas media literacy and inoculation strategies did not produce significant change. More crucially, our findings illustrate that both audience-focused methods, which involve decoding the myth of conspiracy theory and re-imagining intergroup relationships, were effective in reducing the cognitive acceptance of conspiracy theory. Building on these insights, this study contributes to a systematic examination of different epistemic means to influence (or not) conspiracy beliefs -an urgent task in the face of the infodemic threat apparent both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spanish abstract

Entre las crecientes discusiones sobre los estilos argumentativos de las teorías de conspiración y los procesos cognitivos relacionados de su público, los estudios hasta ahora son limitados en lo que respecta al desarrollo de métodos y estrategias que podrían desacreditar eficazmente las teorías de conspiración y reducir las influencias dañinas de la exposición a los medios de comunicación conspirativos. El presente estudio evalúa de manera crítica la efectividad de cinco enfoques para reducir la creencia en conspiraciones, a través de experimentos (N=607) realizados en Amazon Mechanical Turk. Nuestros resultados demuestran que los métodos basados en el contenido al enfrentar las teorías de la conspiración pueden mitigar parcialmente la creencia conspiratoria. Específicamente, las correcciones centradas en la ciencia y los hechos fueron capaces de mitigar eficazmente las creencias en la conspiración, mientras que las estrategias de alfabetización mediática e inoculación no produjeron cambios significativos. Más importante aún, nuestros hallazgos ilustran que ambos métodos centrados en el público, que implican decodificar el mito de la teoría de la conspiración y reimaginar las relaciones intergrupales, fueron efectivos para reducir la aceptación cognitiva de la teoría de la conspiración. Basado en estos conocimientos, este estudio contribuye a un examen sistemático de distintos medios epistemológicos para influir (o no) en las creencias conspirativas, una tarea urgente frente a la evidente amenaza infodémica, tanto durante como después de la pandemia de COVID-19.

Item type: Journal article (Paginated)
Keywords: Conspiracy theories; correction methods; COVID-19; audience; China-United States relation; media influence; Teoría conspirativa; método de rectificación; COVID-19; audiencias; relaciones China-Estados Unidos; influencia mediática
Subjects: B. Information use and sociology of information > BJ. Communication
G. Industry, profession and education.
G. Industry, profession and education. > GH. Education.
Depositing user: Alex Ruiz
Date deposited: 21 Dec 2021 12:05
Last modified: 21 Dec 2021 12:05
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10760/42713


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