Can Encouraging Critical Thinking Change Belief in COVID-19 Fake News?

Gradual and long-term exposure to conspiratorial and biased COVID-19 disinformation leads to an increase in extremist attitudes and opinions, seemingly difficult to break. To determine how difficult it really is to change these types of opinions, especially among groups that hold extreme beliefs about COVID-19 disinformation, Gong published a study called "Who's Afraid of Fake News: The Belief in Conspiracy Theories and the Potential to Change Belief in Fake News About COVID-19 - An Experimental Check", authored by Mirjana Tonković and Andrea Vranić, professors from the Faculty of Social Sciences, and Nebojša Blanuša, professor from the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Zagreb.

By conducting an experiment on 544 respondents, the aim of the research was to check whether it is possible to influence the belief in the presented information by directing information processing and encouraging critical thinking about the content of fake news. At the same time, the research specifically focused on determining the differences in the possibility of such influence on respondents, depending on their tendency to believe in conspiracy theories.

After the participants watched a short video showing an interview with a person who claims to have found chips in a vaccine against COVID-19, the respondents were asked about the reactions they experienced watching it. The results of the research show that people with a low rate of belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories gave the lowest assessments of the credibility of the displayed content, experienced lower rates of negative emotions on the observed video, and more easily accepted information indicating the incredibility of the claims made in the video, while people with the highest rate of belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories gave the most positive assessments of credibility, expressed the highest levels of concern, confusion and surprise at the observed video, and were least inclined to accept information that highlighted the incredibility of the video. Finally, interventions that encourage critical thinking about the content of fake news videos can have a positive effect on people who tend to believe in conspiracy theories, as long as that belief is not extreme.

Read the full research below:

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