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Optimising myth correction during a global pandemic

Challenger, Aimee 2022. Optimising myth correction during a global pandemic. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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COVID-19 was accompanied by an unprecedented amount of misinformation. This information’s ability to spread was aided by several social and political phenomenon (e.g., science denialism). Humans are not good at making truth judgements and their judgements can be led astray by phenomenon such as the illusory truth effect whereby repetition makes things appear more truthful. Misinformation is problematic for Public Health as it can foster unhelpful behaviours (e.g., not following social distancing guidance). It has also been demonstrated to continue to influence decisions following correction (i.e., debunking). Recommendations for debunking have evolved over the years, for example the shift from the recommendation that misinformation should always be excluded from corrections to the acknowledgement that it can be shown in some contexts. However, the contexts in which misinformation can be shown is unclear and many recommendations have not been tested within the context of public health. In this thesis, I aimed to test debunking recommendations within a Public Health context to examine how we can optimise the way in which public health campaigns decrease myth agreement (and increase behaviour intentions). I tested four types of correction formats throughout this thesis: myth-fact, fact-only, fact-myth, and question-answer. Previous research has experimentally tested three of these correction formats (Swire-Thompson et al., 2021). The comparison of the question-answer format to other corrections was novel. I found that the myth-fact and fact-myth were effective at lowering myth agreement. The fact-only format was also effective at lowering agreement, but it was not as effective when participants had high baseline vaccine concerns, or their baseline myth agreement was high. The question-answer format was also more effective than fact-only, and I found some evidence that question-answer was more effective than fact-myth in the longer term. These findings have implications for debunking recommendations and public health campaigns countering misinformation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 June 2023
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2024 04:22

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