Detailed counter-message is better at reducing the effects of misinformation and correcting fake news than merely labelling the information as wrong, a study suggests.
The research also found that even after a detailed debunking, misinformation still can be hard to eliminate.
"The effect of misinformation is very strong," said Dolores Albarracin, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US.
"When you present it, people buy it. But we also asked whether we are able to correct for misinformation. Generally, some degree of correction is possible but it is very difficult to completely correct," Albarracin said.
Researchers sought "to understand the factors underlying effective messages to counter attitudes and beliefs based on misinformation."
They examined 20 experiments in eight research reports involving 6,878 participants and 52 independent samples.
The analysed studies, published from 1994 to 2015, focused on false social and political news accounts.
The researchers coded and analysed the results of the experiments across the different studies and measured the effect of presenting misinformation, the effect of debunking, and the persistence of misinformation.
"This analysis provides evidence of the value of the extended correction of misinformation," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) at University of Pennsylvania in the US.
"Simply stating that something is false or providing a brief explanation is largely ineffective," said Jamieson.
The study found that "the more detailed the debunking message, the higher the debunking effect," said Man-pui Sally Chan, a research assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"But misinformation cannot easily be undone by debunking. The formula that undercuts the persistence of misinformation seems to be in the audience," said Chan, lead author of the research published in the journal Psychological Science.
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