A digital media literacy intervention increases discernment between mainstream and false news in the United States and India

Andrew M. Guess, Michael Lerner, Benjamin Lyons, Jacob M. Montgomery, Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler, Neelanjan Sircar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

300 Scopus citations

Abstract

Widespread belief in misinformation circulating online is a critical challenge for modern societies. While research to date has focused on psychological and political antecedents to this phenomenon, few studies have explored the role of digital media literacy shortfalls. Using data from preregistered survey experiments conducted around recent elections in the United States and India, we assess the effectiveness of an intervention modeled closely on the world's largest media literacy campaign, which provided "tips" on how to spot false news to people in 14 countries. Our results indicate that exposure to this intervention reduced the perceived accuracy of both mainstream and false news headlines, but effects on the latter were significantly larger. As a result, the intervention improved discernment between mainstream and false news headlines among both a nationally representative sample in the United States (by 26.5%) and a highly educated online sample in India (by 17.5%). This increase in discernment remained measurable several weeks later in the United States (but not in India). However, we find no effects among a representative sample of respondents in a largely rural area of northern India, where rates of social media use are far lower.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15536-15545
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume117
Issue number27
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 7 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Keywords

  • Digital literacy
  • Misinformation
  • Social media

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