Why debunking coronavirus conspiracy theories might be counterproductive

coronavirus
Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Was it a bioweapon from a virology institute? Had it been known before and already patented? Could homeopathic remedies help? All of these ideas about the headline-making novel coronavirus disease—now officially called COVID-19—are blatantly false. As with any recent outbreak, from Zika to Ebola, untruths and conspiracy theories spread as quickly as the pathogen itself.

An emerging line of research exploring what might be called misinformation studies is trying to understand how and why fake beliefs arise during public health crises.

Researchers at Dartmouth College, IE University in Spain and other institutions conducted social science experiments showing that attempts to counter false beliefs about the Zika virus with information from the World Health Organization were often counterproductive: the debunking failed to lower misperceptions and even reduced respondents’ confidence in accurate information about the epidemic of the pathogen. The study appeared in Science Advances on January 29.

Related article:  Do psychiatric drugs do more harm than good to treat mental illness?

The researchers suggest that the reason debunking failed to work may relate to what is called the tainted truth effect: the act of warning the public that previously learned information is inaccurate can increase skepticism about other disease-related knowledge—even if it is correct.

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Genetics Unzipped
Infographic: How dangerous COVID mutant strains develop

Infographic: How dangerous COVID mutant strains develop

Sometime in 2019, probably in China, SARS CoV-2 figured out a way to interact with a specific "spike" on the ...
Untitled

Philip Njemanze: Leading African anti-GMO activist claims Gates Foundation destroying Nigeria

Nigerian anti-GMO activist, physician, and inventor pushes anti-gay and anti-GMO ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend