Norbert Schwarz (Univ. of Southern California): “Intuitive judgments of truth: Implications for correcting misinformation”
From politics to the market place and work place, people often hold beliefs that lack factual support. Worse, misinformation is notoriously difficult to correct and correction efforts may even backfire. In most cases, people rely on a subset of five criteria in evaluating truth: Is it compatible with other things I believe? Is it internally consistent? Does it tell a plausible story? Does it come from a credible source? Are there many supporting arguments? Do others think so as well? Each criterion can be evaluated by drawing on relevant details (an effortful analytic strategy) or by attending to the ease with which the content can be processed (a less effortful intuitive strategy). Throughout, high processing fluency results in an affirmative answer and facilitates acceptance of the statement as true, which results in robust illusions of truth. In contrast, most correction strategies assume that people process analytically; accordingly, correction attempts confront erroneous beliefs with facts, often in an argument-by-argument fashion. This works as long as the facts are highly accessible, that is, right after they were presented. However, it backfires after a delay because extensive thought at the correction phase further increases fluent processing when the misinformation is re-encountered at a later time, which favors acceptance under intuitive assessments of truth criteria. I present select experiments from this ongoing research program and discuss the theoretical and applied implications.