MIT finds that Trying to Correct Political Rumors make them Worse

MIT finds that Trying to Correct Political Rumors make them Worse

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A new study released by the MIT finds that correcting rumors in politics /4/only entrench them further.



Sometimes it is best not to talk about something and try to correct it. Letting it go can be the best strategy says  a new study coming out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Rumors are sticky,” says Adam Berinsky, a professor of political science at MIT, and author of a paper detailing the study. “Corrections are difficult, and in some cases can even make the problem worse.”

Berinsky found in an experiment concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that rebuttals of political rumors about the supposed existence of “death panels” sometimes increased belief in the myth among the public.

“Pure repetition, we know from psychology, makes information more powerful,” Berinsky says. 

One rumor Berinsky studied is the Death Panels in Obamacare. The nonexistent “death panels” were alleged to have decision-making power over whether citizens received health care; in reality, as Berinsky points out, the ACA had provisions to pay doctors for counseling patients about their end-of-life options. The best way to debunk such a rumor is to get a political figure who could credibly debunk the rumor based on their broader political stand, a Republican senator, for instance.

The paper containing the results, “Rumors, Truths, and Reality: A Study of Political Misinformation,” will be published in the British Journal of Political Science. 


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