Monday, October 05, 2020

Who Is Susceptible to Online Health Misinformation?

This short article is interesting (and, I think, open access), and could be used to stimulate discussion about misinformation and how to combat it. For example, you could get different groups of learners to propose ways of diagnosing and tackling each of the 3 types of cause, you could critique the categorisations (e.g., perhaps understandably for a health publication, it assumes there always IS a way to tell true from false, and doesn't address circumstances where talking about true and false is problematic). You could ask students to follow up and find more research about the argument that most interested them. If you have a good relationship with them, learners might be willing to reflect om whether they felt any of these 3 applied to them. Also the article suggests lines of future research (e.g. do people who believe misinformation about X also believe it about Y). 

Scherer, L. and Pennycook, G. (2020). Who Is Susceptible to Online Health Misinformation? American Journal of Public Health, 110, S276_S277.

"Although everyone has the potential to be misled by false information, online misinformation is not an equal opportunity aggressor. Some of us are more likely to believe misinformation than are others and serve as vectors by sharing it on social media. To effectively combat misinformation on social media, it is crucial to understand the underlying factors that lead certain people to believe and share false and misleading content online. A growing body of research has tackled this issue by investigating who is susceptible to online misinformation and under what circumstances." 

They indentify three main arguments (1) "the deficit hypothesis" "people who believe misinformation do not have sufficient knowledge or literacy to discriminate between true and false information." (the literacies they focus on are primarily health and digital literacy - information literacy isn't mentioned) (2) "people tend to be susceptible to misinformation that is consistent with their preexisting beliefs or worldview." and (3) "those who are worse at discerning between true and false information tend to overclaim their own knowledge and to be receptive to “pseudoprofound” statements”

Photo by Sheila Webber, apples and pears, farmers' market, late September 2020

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