When corrections fail: the persistence of political misperceptions

After seeing my note on education, partisanship, and views on climate change, Jason Reifler sent me this paper he wrote with Brendan Nyhan, which begins:

An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We [Nyhan and Reifler] conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire” effect in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.

That’s scary stuff!

P.S. Nice graphs. Tables 1-4 could be made into graphs too (by adapting coefplot()), but, still, the displays are pretty good.

1 thought on “When corrections fail: the persistence of political misperceptions

  1. Corrections reinforcing misunderstandings (or misperceptions) is a widely studied phenomenon in marketing, and hence in politics.

    I just finished reading a great pop book on the topic of what people remember and why: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.

    I'd recommend it to anyone who gives presentations or writes pitches, er, proposals.

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