Misperceptions About Politics and Health Care: Can They be Corrected?


Little is known about how to most effectively correct misperceptions about social and political issues. In this presentation, Dr. Nyhan reports the results of experiments testing the effectiveness of corrective information in the media. We find that corrections typically fail to reduce political misperceptions among the targeted ideological group and sometimes make them worse -- a result we call a “backfire effect.” We obtain similar results in a study of misperceptions about Barack Obama’s religion. These issues are highly relevant to controversies over health care and health care policy, which are often distorted by misinformation. Dr. Nyhan uses public opinion data and new experimental results to illustrate the role of motivated reasoning in the “death panels” myth. Dr. Nyhan then concludes with results from new experiments examining resistance to corrective information about vaccines, another issue that has been hijacked by false claims.
Brendan Nyhan, PhD
Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan
Recorded December 8, 2010


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