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On Immunity: An Inoculation

Recent research has explored the possibility of building attitudinal resistance against online misinformation through psychological inoculation. The inoculation metaphor relies on a medical analogy: by pre-emptively exposing people to weakened doses of misinformation cognitive immunity can be conferred. A recent example is the Bad News game, an online fake news game in which players learn about six common misinformation techniques. We present a replication and extension into the effectiveness of Bad News as an anti-misinformation intervention. We address three shortcomings identified in the original study: the lack of a control group, the relatively low number of test items, and the absence of attitudinal certainty measurements. Using a 2 (treatment vs. control) 2 (pre vs. post) mixed design (N = 196) we measure participants' ability to spot misinformation techniques in 18 fake headlines before and after playing Bad News. We find that playing Bad News significantly improves people's ability to spot misinformation techniques compared to a gamified control group, and crucially, also increases people's level of confidence in their own judgments. Importantly, this confidence boost only occurred for those who updated their reliability assessments in the correct direction. This study offers further evidence for the effectiveness of psychological inoculation against not only specific instances of fake news, but the very strategies used in its production. Implications are discussed for inoculation theory and cognitive science research on fake news.

On Immunity: An Inoculation



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