The Backfire Effect

In light of some recent developments here on D&D, I thought this might be helpful. It was an article which just happened to pop up in my Google news feed. Quite insightful!

May all beings be happy, may all beings be well.


That was rather long but very interesting.

Thanks @Timothy!

Backfire of “the backfire effect”?

One of the authors of the original research and later research done by the author and others indicates that:

  1. The power of the backfire effect should not be exaggerated.
  2. Subsequent research has not been able to replicate the effect except in some situations.

However, other research we have done suggests that fact-checking can be effective. The political scientists Thomas Wood and Ethan Porter have also found corrective information is generally effective in reducing false beliefs, though the extent to which it is effective can depend on people’s political views.

The four of us decided to evaluate the effectiveness of corrective information in reducing misperceptions during this election.

… we found that correcting Mr. Trump’s message reduced the prevalence of false beliefs about long-term increases in crime.

… Encouragingly, we also found only partial evidence that questioning the validity of a correction can undermine its effects. … some Trump supporters were willing to accept corrective information …

Despite all the hand-wringing, we do not seem to have entered a post-truth era. Sometimes people will change their minds about the facts. The question facing the country, then, is how to reduce not just the demand for false information, but the supply of it coming from politicians and the media.

… what you should keep in mind while reading the cartoon is that the backfire effect can be hard to replicate in rigorous research. So hard, in fact, that a large-scale, peer-reviewed study presented last August at the American Political Science Association’s annual conference couldn’t reproduce the findings of the high-profile 2010 study that documented backfire effect.

The elusive backfire effect: mass attitudes’ steadfast factual

The present paper presents results from four experiments in which we enrolled more than 8,100 subjects and tested 36 issues of potential backfire. Across all experiments, we found only one issue capable of triggering backfire: whether WMD were found in Iraq in 2003. Even this limited case was susceptible to a survey item effect; when presented with a less elaborate survey item, we found no WMD factual backfire.

The Limitations of the Backfire Effect (forthcoming )

Nyhan and Reifler (2010, 2015) document a “backfire effect,” wherein attempts to correct factual misperceptions increase the prevalenc e of false beliefs. These results are widely cited both in and outside of political science. In this research note, I report the results of a replication of Nyhan and Reifler’s (2015) flu vaccine study that was embedded in a larger study about flu vaccines. The backfire effect was not replicated in my experiment.

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